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What is the best trust to claim lottery winnings?

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Winning the lottery can be an exciting event, but it also comes with some important financial considerations. One of the most important decisions a lottery winner must make is how to claim their prize money. There are a few options to weigh when claiming lottery winnings, including claiming the prize personally, forming a trust, forming an LLC, or remaining anonymous if allowed by state law. Many experts recommend claiming lottery prizes through a trust for the benefits of asset protection, privacy, and efficient management of the funds.

Should You Claim Lottery Winnings Personally or Through a Trust?

When you win a large lottery prize, you typically have two options for claiming the money – claim it personally in your own name or claim it through a legal entity like a trust. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Claiming the prize personally is the easiest and quickest option. The lottery proceeds can be deposited right into your personal bank account. However, claiming the prize in your own name also comes with risks. It makes it easy for friends, family, creditors, scammers, and the public at large to know that you won money. This could expose you to harassment, lawsuits, or other threats. It also means you will owe taxes personally on the entire prize amount.

Forming a trust to claim the lottery prize offers important advantages, especially for large jackpot wins. A trust allows you to keep your identity private as the winner. Having a trust claim the prize funds and manage the money also provides asset protection benefits. The assets held in trust are legally protected from creditors and divorcing spouses. The trust can also help establish a structured plan for managing the lottery funds through professional trustees or advisers.

What Type of Trust is Best for Claiming Lottery Winnings?

If you decide to have a trust claim a lottery prize on your behalf, you’ll want to choose the right type of trust. The most common options include:

  • Revocable living trust – This keeps assets in your control during your lifetime but avoids probate at death. Lottery winnings would be shielded from probate and estate taxes.
  • Irrevocable trust – This permanently transfers assets to a trust, protecting them from creditors and taxes. You give up control, but beneficiaries receive protection.
  • Land trust – This holds real estate assets anonymously. It keeps your name off property records associated with homes and land purchases.
  • Dynasty trust – This holds assets to pass tax-free to beneficiaries for multiple generations. It can shield assets from estate taxes indefinitely.

An irrevocable trust is generally considered the best option for claiming lottery winnings. Unlike a revocable living trust, an irrevocable trust offers creditor protection and the assets are no longer considered yours for tax purposes. An irrevocable trust can also include protective provisions to control when distributions are made to beneficiaries.

Key Benefits of Using a Trust to Claim Lottery Winnings

Setting up a trust to collect lottery winnings offers several important benefits:

  • Privacy – A trust allows you to keep your identity anonymous as the winner of a jackpot prize. Only the name of the trust is made public.
  • Asset protection – Trust assets are protected from creditors, divorcing spouses, lawsuits, and other claims.
  • Probate avoidance – Assets held in trust avoid the costs and delays of probate following death.
  • Tax minimization – Carefully structured trusts can help minimize income, estate, and inheritance taxes on lottery winnings.
  • Professional management – Trustees can manage investing and distributions from the trust on your behalf.
  • Control over distributions – Trust documents can establish rules for how and when funds are paid out to beneficiaries.

How to Structure a Lottery Trust

If you decide on having a trust claim a lottery prize, here are some key steps to take in structuring the trust properly:

  1. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney – Have an attorney specialized in asset protection trusts guide you.
  2. Choose trustees carefully – Select responsible, financially-savvy trustees to manage the trust assets.
  3. Draft the trust document – Spell out all provisions for how the trust will operate and when/how assets can be distributed.
  4. Name beneficiaries – Identify who will benefit from the trust assets and in what proportions.
  5. Transfer winning ticket to the trust – Endorse the winning ticket over to trustees before claiming.
  6. Have trustees open a bank account – Trustees should establish a new account for depositing the lottery funds.
  7. Invest for sustainability – Develop an investment plan that preserves wealth for future generations.
  8. Make distributions per the trust terms – Use the trust document as a roadmap for paying out funds.

Having an experienced attorney draft the irrevocable trust document is critical to ensuring your assets and intentions are properly protected.

Tax Considerations for Lottery Winnings in a Trust

Lottery winnings claimed through a trust still typically face taxation, but the tax burden may be managed differently. Here are key tax factors to keep in mind:

  • Income taxes will be owed at the trust tax rates when winnings are claimed.
  • The trust tax brackets are very compressed, reaching the top 37% rate at only $12,950 of income in 2022.
  • Principal and earnings may be taxed again when distributed from the trust.
  • Careful planning is required to minimize taxes at the trust and beneficiary levels.
  • An irrevocable trust is not eligible for the 5-year annuity payout option that spreads taxes.

Consulting a tax professional and attorney can help you develop a tax-efficient structure for your lottery trust.

Pros of Using a Trust to Claim Lottery Winnings

The advantages of having a trust instead of claiming a lottery jackpot personally include:

Pros Details
Privacy protection The trust’s name is public, not the individual winner’s identity.
Asset protection Trust assets are shielded from creditors and civil lawsuits per the laws of the state where the trust is based.
Probate avoidance Assets in the trust avoid the time-consuming probate process upon death.
Professional trustees A team of experienced financial and legal professionals can manage the trust and investment of funds.
Control over distributions The trust document controls precisely when and how funds will be distributed to beneficiaries.
Tax minimization Trusts allow for income splitting and other tactics to potentially reduce tax liability on lottery winnings.

Cons of Using a Trust to Claim Lottery Winnings

There are also some drawbacks or complications to using a trust for lottery winnings:

Cons Details
Set-up costs Attorney fees and court filing costs are required to establish the trust.
Ongoing administrative fees If using professional trustees, their ongoing compensation reduces net returns.
Limited control for the winner Assets and distributions are controlled by the appointed trustees per the trust document.
Restricted 5-year annuity option Irrevocable trusts may not qualify for the 5-year staggered tax payment on lottery winnings.
Domicile issues The trust will be governed by the laws of the state where it is established.
Complicated tax planning Trust taxation rules are complex, often requiring professional guidance.

Key Factors in Choosing a Trustee

Selecting the right trustee is a critical decision for a lottery trust. Key factors to consider include:

  • Financial expertise – Their experience managing substantial assets or investments.
  • Attention to detail – Capacity to follow trust rules and taxation requirements.
  • Objectivity – Ability to make impartial distribution decisions.
  • Recordkeeping – Diligence in maintaining detailed records.
  • Availability – Time to actively manage trust affairs.
  • Longevity – Age and health to potentially serve for decades.
  • Integrity – Character to resist temptations of fund misuse.
  • Interpersonal skills – Ability to communicate with beneficiaries.

Many lottery winners choose a team of professional advisers, like an attorney and financial institution’s trust department, to serve as co-trustees.

Typical Trustees for a Lottery Trust

Common trustee options include:

  • Attorney – Provides legal guidance on the trust and often serves as co-trustee.
  • Accountant – Assists with tax filings and can also be a co-trustee.
  • Family member(s) – Trusted relatives like siblings or children can be named.
  • Financial advisor – An investment pro who helps grow the trust assets.
  • Bank or trust company – Institutional trustee provides administrative expertise.
  • Trusted friend – Someone very close to the winner who knows their wishes.

A team of two or three trusted individuals or institutions is common for lottery trusts. Attorneys, financial firms, and family members tend to make the most suitable trustees.

Importance of Successor Trustees

Given the long-term nature of trusts, provisions should be made for future trustees as initial ones resign or pass away. Naming successor trustees helps keep the trust functioning smoothly for decades. Key tips on successor trustees include:

  • Outline a clear sequence of successor trustees in the trust document.
  • Designate both individual and institutional trustee successors.
  • Avoid naming minor children – successor trustees should be competent adults.
  • Consider both younger and older successors to balance longevity.
  • Confirm all named successors are willing to serve before finalizing trust.
  • Review and update the succession plan periodically as circumstances change.

Having multiple generations of capable and trustworthy successor trustees is crucial for sustaining a lottery trust over the long-term.

Trustee’s Role in Making Distributions

A primary job of the trustee is overseeing any distributions made from the trust. Key aspects related to trust distributions and trustees include:

  • Trustees must follow the distribution standards and instructions outlined in the trust.
  • The trustee has discretion over distributions while following trust rules.
  • Trustees need to balance beneficiaries’ needs while preserving assets.
  • Typical trust distributions cover needs like education, housing, and health.
  • Some trusts have incentive provisions tied to distributions.
  • The trustee may have taxation duties related to distributions.
  • A trustee can be replaced by beneficiaries if distributions seem improper.

Having clear guidance in the trust document helps trustees make fair and appropriate distribution decisions over time.

Choosing a Trustee for a Minor Beneficiary

If minor children will benefit from a lottery trust, the trustee selection process considers the beneficiary’s age. Suitable trustee options can include:

  • Other parent – The other parent can manage trust affairs if one winner-parent dies.
  • Guardian – If no parents, name the child’s guardian if they are financially savvy.
  • Family member – A responsible aunt, uncle, or grandparent may be suitable.
  • Professional trustee – Banks and trust companies can manage the funds.
  • Trust protector – An independent third party who oversees the trustee.

A team approach with family and professional trustees offers checks and balances when minor children are beneficiaries.

Trust Considerations for Spousal Beneficiaries

Married lottery winners must weigh how trust planning affects a surviving spouse. Considerations include:

  • Naming the spouse as an initial beneficiary while both are alive.
  • Giving the surviving spouse limited control as a trustee.
  • Establishing the spouse as the lifetime beneficiary upon the death of the winning partner.
  • Drafting provisions to care for the spouse before other beneficiaries.
  • Coordinating the trust with other planning documents of the married couple.
  • Discussing the wishes of both spouses transparently with advisers.

Balancing the needs of the surviving spouse and children from prior relationships is often a challenge in crafting a lottery trust.


For lottery winners, deciding how to claim winnings can have lasting financial implications. While accepting a jackpot publicly in your name may seem easier, having a trust claim the prize offers major benefits. An irrevocable asset protection trust provides anonymity, protects your assets, and distributes funds professionally under defined rules. Working with expert legal advisers to create and manage a lottery trust is the best approach for winners focused on responsible wealth management over the long-term.