Maximizing the ‘BIG’ win

By teaming with trustworthy experts from attorneys to financial/estate planners, lucky lottery players will be able to safeguard and build upon winnings.

Maximizing the ‘BIG’ win

Benefits of working with a respected legal/ financial/ estate planning expert.

In exclusive interviews, Lottery USA spoke with two prominent legal/tax/financial experts, Florida-based Attorney, Estate Planner, and Public Accountant Kurt Panouses and Illinois-based Securities Attorney Andrew Stoltmann, to learn steps they advise big winners to take before telling anyone or spending a dime.


Congratulations, you just won a large jackpot amount in the lottery. Naturally, your first reaction may be shock and disbelief before eventually moving to acceptance and the realization that:

  • This unexpected ‘windfall’ is definitely real.
  • There are certain steps forward you will need to take on your journey to wealth and prosperity.

Depending on the state in which the winning ticket was sold, winners have anywhere between ninety days and upwards of a year to claim their prize.

However, be mindful that additional state-specific stipulations may also apply, e.g., in Illinois - winners must file within 60 days of winning in order to take the lump sum payment option.

Yet, regardless of where in the country the ticket was purchased, ultimately, the ticket needs to be claimed, or, sadly, the winnings will be forfeited.

As wills, estate, trust attorney and CPA Kurt Panouses, founder of the eponymous Florida-based Panouses Law Group, relays, “Any lottery win over $10 million warrants the need for outside assistance.”

To help maximize one’s jackpot, design a long-term spending, savings, and investment plan, and navigate through what likely will prove to be uncharted waters, Attorney Panouses emphasizes the benefits of leaning on an advisor who, in addition to having a legal background, also has estate planning experience and extensive knowledge of the states’ varying income tax structures.

Trust attorney and CPA Kurt Panouses

Trust attorney and CPA Kurt Panouses, founder of the Panouses Law Group

Panouses, whose family calls him ‘The GLOAT’ - (greatest lottery attorney of all time) on account of the fact that 85% percent of his clientele are lottery winners—three of whom have been among the new crop of recent billion-dollar winners in the multi-state games, recommends new/recent winners take some time to let it all sink in.

“Give it some time - everything has changed. Someone who previously didn’t have money now does; the kid is now an adult,” shared Panouses of his initial lottery-winning congratulatory speech before he moved on to encouraging large-scale winners to work in concert with a trained professional, one who is not only qualified but someone with whom they can envision themselves working for the guessable future.

“One billion dollar jackpot winner can keep me busy for the next two years,” commented Panouses as to how he aids clients with more than just outlining a financial plan; he acts as their partner and artist, if you will, to create the life of their heart’s desire while ensuring they will be able to rely upon their winnings today and thirty years from now.

Hence, not only is Panouses able to offer financial guidance, but he also imparts invaluable life planning lessons to clients. For example, before engaging in any form of post-lottery critical decision-making behaviors, Panouses strongly advocates that winners adhere to the following five steps:

1. Keep your circle small - share the lottery win with as few people as possible.

Panouses stressed the critical element of keeping the circle small, for the fewer people who are aware of the sizable pay-out(s) you are about to receive—the better.

Of all the key points to bear in mind, Panouses said this was, perhaps, the most important one, for providing protection to one’s anonymity allows the winner room to breathe and make decisions based upon the plan they designed and their personal preferences.

2. DON’T sign the back of the ticket - but do take a photo and put it in a safe deposit box.

This is because once you sign the back of the ticket and submit your claim at the local Lottery office, depending upon the rules of the U.S. state in which the winning ticket was sold, you run the risk of erupting a media frenzy followed by the round-the-clock stream of solicitations sure to follow.

Note: Should you file in a state without an anonymous option, you become someone with a target on their back.

Panouses spoke of multiple successes he has had in helping clients ‘live their best lives’ by keeping their identities private. And he has legitimately accomplished this despite the state in question having an identity reveal requirement for winners.

By filing clients as LLCs or, if a state lottery has a natural person stipulation, as a Club that is an association of natural persons, he has managed to effectively retain clients’ identities.

3. Resist making any exorbitant purchases for at least six months following the win.

First things first, Panouses is all about establishing a long-range plan. To do so, he asks clients questions like, “Where do you see yourself in four years?”, “Who do want to provide for and/or set up a lifelong reserve?”

Known as ‘generational planning,’ Panouses is big on creating a picture or game plan (as he’s a big fan of sports analogies - to the degree whereby he likens himself to a quarterback) and, as such, he stresses to clients the importance of building a financial strategy around the lifestyle in which they see themselves and the close members of their family living for the many years ahead.

4. Decide whether to take the lump sum payment or fixed annuities.

Surprisingly, as so often you hear or read how, if you are to win, take the lump sum payment option. Yet, this may not always be the most prudent course of action.

“Know the state and their state income tax rate,” states Panouses, “Many people don’t know you can take the lump initially and then switch to fixed annuity payments.”

Winners can financially fare far better in the long run, particularly in cases of those who won playing any of the ‘win for life’ scratch-off games. Interestingly, the younger the winner, the greater the number of payments they are liable to receive—moneys they would otherwise miss out on had they gone with the lump sum option.

For this and additional reasons, fixed annual annuities may be the preferred option, particularly in states with zero or low-income tax rates.

In agreement is another well-known lottery financial-legal expert, Chicago securities attorney Andrew Stoltmann, who, like Panouses, can also boast of representing mega-lottery winning clients (e.g., Manuel Franco of West Allis, Wisconsin, who won $787 million on Powerball in 2019), encourages winners to take the fixed annuity option for, ultimately, this helps maximize players’ winnings.

Securities attorney Andrew Stoltmann

Chicago securities attorney Andrew Stoltmann

Expounding upon this idea, Stoltmann endorses the idea of big winners taking up residency in a no-low income state tax. As he explains, “While establishing residency requires six months and one day, owning a home in a no-low income state tax can pay off in sizable dividends.”

5. Develop a long-range financial strategy/spending plan.

On the same page, Panouses and Stoltmann recommend clients live off the interest they earn by investing the principal amount of their winnings and spending only the returns.

When drafting a spending plan, attorneys Panouses and Stoltmann say it’s best to utilize somewhere between five and six percent of the interest earned on the principal amount, and by doing so, winners can maintain a very comfortable, upscale lifestyle.

“If someone previously had little or no money, and you ask them if they could live off $9 million per year, they are going to be on board with that game plan,” relayed Panouses of the spending plan’s significance in terms of keeping moneys in reserve and not touching the principal amount but rather safeguarding it and allowing it to continue earning and accumulating interest so that down the road it will have grown and can provide for future generations/beneficiaries.

As part of the idea of maximizing one’s winnings, Stoltmann favors the formation of a globally diversified portfolio whereby there is a mix of a range of investment types at varying risk levels.

However, in tandem with investments, Stoltmann’s area of specialty is in securities fraud, whereby clients hire him because their former attorney/financial advisor failed to deliver as promised, resulting in what seems to be irreparable financial distress.

As Stoltmann explained, he routinely files lawsuits on clients’ behalf (a mix of lottery winners and investor tycoons) in response to unwarranted risky behaviors taken by their former ‘financial experts.’

Per the nature of what can be a volatile, rough-and-tumble financial investment industry,  Stoltmann concedes that sometimes lottery winners can get taken for a ride as many jackpot lottery winners lack the financial sophistication needed to avoid falling prey to the solicitous advances of so-called experts.

“The financial advisor/estate planner takes an oath to ensure they are a) transparent in their dealings with clients’ moneys, and b) service each client at the level of their financial sophistication so as not to exploit their lack of financial knowledge/savviness,” offered Stoltmann as to the idealized version of how advisors are trained to service clients in an honorable and upfront manner.

Yet, truth be told, all advisors do not uphold the oath they were sworn to take and attempt to get big winners into high-yield, high-risk investments - mainly because they receive handsome incentives to do so.

So, in this context, while Panouses focus may be more on maximizing clients’ winnings, Stoltmann’s may be on recovering them.

Thus, not only is a lottery ‘expert’ good for easing clients’ frustration and providing clarity, but they also can be instrumental in helping them steer clear of deceptive practices and ill-informed decision-making.

However, if all these high-minded legal terms and complex investment processes—not to mention worrisome precautionary tales—take the idea of winning a jackpot lottery prize down a notch, it's best to bear in mind some of the complementary tips our two experts provided, and it will help restore you to a more wistful way of looking at the lottery.

Because all things considered, when managed under the care and direction of a sound, trustworthy legal/financial expert, being a big winner in the lottery can still help make even the wildest of dreams come true.