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Can you stay anonymous if you win the Mega Millions in Michigan?

Winning the lottery is a dream come true for many people. The Mega Millions jackpot recently grew to over $1 billion, prompting a surge of ticket sales across the country. While the odds of winning are extremely slim, it’s human nature to fantasize about suddenly coming into a massive windfall. But for some people, the idea of having their name and face broadcast along with the news of their big win is downright terrifying.

Anonymity is a major concern for lottery winners. Having your life suddenly changed in such a drastic way is bound to attract attention, much of it unwanted. Family, friends, scammers and even violent criminals can come out of the woodwork looking for a piece of your prize. Many winners wish to avoid the publicity in order to maintain some sense of normalcy in their lives after the initial shock of winning wears off.

Can lottery winners in Michigan remain anonymous?

Unfortunately for those hoping to keep a low profile, Michigan does not allow lottery winners to remain anonymous. State law requires the Michigan Lottery to publicize the names and hometowns of all winners of prizes over $10,000. The only exception is in cases where multiple winners split a prize over $10,000, in which case the names and cities of residence for each are provided but not matched up by individual.

This policy is designed to provide transparency in the lottery system and assure the public that real people are actually winning these prizes. But for winners who prefer privacy, it eliminates the chance to try to quietly claim your winnings through a trust or other legal entity.

Publicity requirements

Not only are winners’ names made public, the Michigan Lottery actually mandates just how prominently winners must be identified. All advertisements and communications about winning prizes over $10,000 must state the name and city of the winner(s).

The Lottery Commissioner determines the format and content of these announcements, though in practice they usually include details like the winner’s age, employer, how they plan to use the money, and of course a photo. While winners can decline to appear at a press conference or other media event, their identities cannot be shielded from public disclosure.

Anonymity in other states

A handful of states do allow lottery winners some measure of anonymity. Kansas, Maryland, Delaware, North Dakota and Ohio changed their laws in recent years to permit winners’ identities to be kept confidential under certain circumstances. However, the only states with 100% anonymity protection are Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina.

Some states allow winners to form a trust to claim the money, keeping their names out of the public eye. In others, winners can decline to participate in any press events or interviews, even if their identities are made public through records requests.

Pros of remaining anonymous

There are some clear benefits to remaining anonymous as a major lottery winner. These include:

  • Avoiding harassment – Long-lost friends, distant relatives, scammers and predatory criminals could come out of the woodwork asking for money.
  • Maintaining normalcy – Keeping your win private allows you to carry on with your life without constant attention or requests.
  • Protection from theft/lawsuits – Publicity puts a target on your back for both unscrupulous lawsuits and theft of your prize.
  • Peace of mind – Those uncomfortable with attention can avoid the stress of having their life examined.

For many winners, the tradeoff of giving up some privacy is worth it to claim their prize. But others find the idea of their name and face being constantly associated with their wealth unacceptable.

Cons of remaining anonymous

However, there are also some downsides to remaining anonymous as a major lottery winner:

  • No publicity benefits – Anonymity means losing out on any opportunities that could come with fame.
  • Transparency concerns – The public may question whether anonymous winners are even real.
  • No control of story – You can’t easily refute rumors or misleading claims about your win.
  • Suspicion from friends/family – Those close to you will obviously know, and may resent secrecy.

While anonymity offers protection, it also comes with increased suspicion and less ability to control the narrative around your lottery win. Some winners prefer the openness of publicly claiming their prize.

Claiming the prize anonymously

In Michigan, the only option lottery winners have is to publicly claim the prize in their own name. But in states that do permit anonymity, there are a few ways winners can try to maintain their privacy:

  • Claim through a trust – Winners can have the prize claimed by a trust, which keeps their name detached from the winnings. This is the most common way to maintain anonymity.
  • Use a lawyer – An attorney can assist in claiming the ticket while acting as a representative for an anonymous client.
  • Wear a disguise – Some winners opt for oversized sunglasses, hats and other disguises when forced to make public appearances to claim their prizes.

Even these strategies have limits, however. Most anonymous winners still have to reveal their identities to lottery officials to prevent fraud. And news of their win often still leaks through rumors and leaks.

Steps to remaining anonymous

For lottery winners in states where anonymity is allowed, experts recommend these steps to try maintaining privacy:

  1. Do not tell anyone about the win, not even close family, until you have your plan.
  2. Assemble a team of professionals – lawyer, financial advisor, accountant – to claim the prize.
  3. Have the prize claimed by a trust set up explicitly for that purpose. Name the trust something generic without obvious ties to you.
  4. Carefully vet all professionals for discretion – make anonymity their top priority.
  5. Move residences if possible and limit public appearances until interest dies down.

Even then, sustaining anonymity long-term is difficult. But following prudent steps immediately can help winners maintain as low a profile as realistically possible.

Using a blind trust in Michigan

While anonymity is not permissible for Michigan Lottery winners, it may be possible to utilize a blind trust to claim a prize. With a blind trust:

  • The winner names themselves as the beneficiary to receive trust assets.
  • The winner appoints a trustee to administer the trust assets on their behalf.
  • By law, the trustee cannot disclose information about the trust assets or distributions to the winner.

By having the blind trust claim the lottery prize, the winner’s identity could technically be shielded from the public. However, lottery officials may still require that the winner’s name be disclosed even if a trust is used.

Downsides of blind trusts

While blind trusts offer some benefits, potential downsides include:

  • The winner has no control or knowledge of trust investments and distributions.
  • Trustees charge fees that reduce the prize amount.
  • Ongoing legal and tax administration can be complicated.
  • The lottery may still mandate releasing winner information publicly.

For these reasons, blind trusts are likely not a practical solution for most lottery winners focused on anonymity.

How long does lottery anonymity last?

Even winners who successfully remain anonymous immediately after winning cannot always maintain secrecy forever:

  • On average, most lottery winners’ anonymity lasts 1-3 years before their identities become known publicly.
  • Gossip and accidental leaks often lead to disclosure over time in small towns and communities.
  • Winners may voluntarily “go public” after a few years to pursue business ventures based on their wealth.
  • Ongoing lawsuits, estate planning issues and other financial dealings often necessitate giving up anonymity.

While a short period of anonymity can help winners adapt to their sudden wealth, lifetime secrecy is rare. At some point, practical obstacles make continuing to hide a winner’s identity difficult.

Famous anonymous winners

A handful of lottery winners have managed to keep their identities truly anonymous for extended periods:

  • An Iowa Powerball winner remained anonymous for over a year before a lawsuit publicly revealed their name.
  • The winner of a $315 million Powerball in North Carolina has kept their identity secret for over 5 years.
  • A $267 million Mega Millions winner in New Hampshire avoided publicity for nearly 2 years before coming forward.

While rare, there are cases of winners maintaining anonymity for years. This is only possible where state laws explicitly permit shielding winners’ identities.

State Anonymity Option
Delaware Yes
Kansas Yes
Maryland Yes
Michigan No
Ohio Yes

Tax implications when remaining anonymous

While anonymity shields winners’ identities, it does not change the tax obligations attached to major lottery prizes:

  • Federal taxes – Federal tax law requires 24% of lottery winnings be withheld immediately for federal taxes. Additional taxes likely apply at tax time.
  • State taxes – State tax rates range from 0% to over 8% on lottery winnings. State taxes apply regardless of winner anonymity.
  • Gift tax – Gifting over $15,000 per year to friends or family may trigger federal gift tax obligations.
  • Estate tax – Lottery prizes remain part of winners’ taxable estates. Estate taxes may apply at death.

There are no special tax exemptions for anonymous winners. While identities can sometimes be shielded, standard tax rules still apply in full.

Claiming prizes anonymously

While taxes must still be paid, anonymous winners utilize these strategies to obscure their identities:

  • Have the trust provide winner TIN to claim prize and pay taxes.
  • File taxes through law firm or other representative to hide financial details.
  • Collect winnings through an LLC registered anonymously.
  • Have all paperwork handled by attorneys or financial advisors.

Obscuring the tax paper trail helps maintain anonymity. But ultimately the winner is still individually responsible for all taxes.


In conclusion, remaining completely anonymous after a major lottery win is challenging even in states that legally permit it. Truly lifetime secrecy is nearly impossible due to gossip, legal requirements, and the complications of managing large sums of money.

The best lottery winners can realistically accomplish is short-term anonymity of 1-3 years. This requires careful planning and trusted advisors to claim prizes through entities that shield the winner’s identity. But eventually ongoing finances and legal hurdles make maintaining secrecy extremely difficult.

For winners in states like Michigan with no anonymity protection, avoiding all publicity is impossible from the start. The key is being prepared for the public scrutiny that comes with winning and relying on professional advisors to help navigate life in the spotlight.