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can washington lottery winners remain anonymous

She Won The $560 Million Powerball — And Immediately Regretted This

(Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

When this New Hampshire woman won the $560 million Powerball jackpot in January, she did what most people would do. She signed the back of her ticket.

But it almost cost her more than she bargained for.

Here’s what you need to know and what you should do if you’re fortunate enough to follow in her footsteps and win the lottery.

Step #1: Remain anonymous

If you win the lottery, your best bet is to remain anonymous.

With your newfound fortune, the last thing you want is to draw attention to your newfound fortune. Jane Doe (the Powerball winner whose name has not been disclosed) realized after she signed her winning lottery ticket that she wished to remain anonymous.

Typically, the choice to remain anonymous after you win the lottery may not be yours.

The rules regarding anonymity vary by state, with some states requiring all lottery winners to disclose their identity. Why?

Some lottery officials say they want transparency and to ensure that the winner is not related to a lottery official. Therefore, lottery commissions strive for transparency, and typically want winners to disclose their name, city and prize amount.

Remaining anonymous when you win the lottery can only be done in six U.S. states: Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. The remaining states where Powerball is sold, including Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, require that winners publicly disclose their identity.

In New Hampshire, a lottery winner’s name, town and prize amount are publicly disclosed as part of the state’s “Right To Know” law.

However, Doe asked a state judge to grant her anonymity even though she signed her name on the back of the ticket and lives in a state that does not permit anonymity for lottery winners.

On Monday, Judge Charles Temple granted her request – to the objection of New Hampshire lottery officials who argued that revealing her identity increases transparency and trust in the lottery system in accordance with state rules. The judge ruled that revealing her name would constitute an invasion of privacy since lottery winners can face – according to Temple’s order – “repeated solicitation, harassment, and even violence.” The judge ruled, however, the winner had to reveal her town (Merrimack).

Step #2: Sign the winning lottery ticket

So, if you win the lottery and live in a state that does not guarantee anonymity, should you still sign the back of the ticket?

It may sound outdated, but you should always sign the back of a winning lottery ticket.

A lottery ticket is considered a bearer instrument, which means that whoever signs the ticket can claim the lottery winnings.

Therefore, if you lose an unsigned winning ticket, the person who find it legally can claim the prize.

The question then is what name do you sign on the back of the ticket – particularly if you want to remain anonymous.

You can accept a lottery prize through legal structures such as a blind trust that can protect your identity. In this case, the winner created the Good Karma Family 2018 Nominee Trust. Her lawyer, William Shaheen, accepted the lump sum prize of $352 million (approximately $264 million after taxes) on her behalf.

What’s the first thing she did with her new fortune? She donated almost $250,000 to charity – and has plans to donate up to $50 million. Way to make lemonade.

If you win the lottery, make sure to do this one thing.

Growing number of states move to shield lottery winners

Lottery: How to win the jackpot

Seven-time lottery game grand prize winner Richard Lustig tips on his advice to win the Mega Million and Powerball jackpots.

A growing number of states are moving to allow the winners of big lottery jackpots to stay anonymous as privacy concerns are increasingly trumping lottery groups’ wishes to publicize winners to boost sales and show that the games are fair.

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Arizona could be the next state to join at least nine others with laws that let winners keep their names secret under a proposal headed to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. Four years ago, just five states allowed anonymous winners, and a handful of others allowed trusts to claim prizes.

At least eight state legislatures considered measures shielding winners’ names this year. Virginia’s governor signed legislation allowing winners of $10 million or more to remain anonymous. Proposals in Arkansas and Connecticut failed, while efforts in Massachusetts, Minnesota and Oregon are still being considered.

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New Mexico’s governor last week axed a similar proposal, with a spokesman saying Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to prioritize transparency.

“To be sure, the governor is clear about the concerns raised by proponents, i.e., that certain bad actors could take advantage of lottery winners if their names are made public,” spokesman Tripp Stelnicki said in a statement. But “New Mexicans should have every confidence in the games run by the lottery.”

Arizona’s governor hasn’t weighed in on the proposal before him.

The Arizona Lottery took no official position, but spokesman John Gilliland said “it is important that we have that transparency, because the lottery is nothing without integrity.”

“And the only way the public has an absolute guarantee of integrity as far as real people winning these prizes is to be able to know who wins these prizes,” he said this week.

Republican state Rep. Nancy Barto introduced the measure, saying she wanted to protect winners from harassment. State Rep. John Kavanagh pushed for current law that shields winners’ names for 90 days but said this week that it doesn’t go far enough.

“After 90 days, the person is then subjected to all sorts of people hitting them up for loans, investment advisers trying to make them a client and the potential to be victimized by a burglar or, if it’s a massive amount, having their kid kidnapped,” the Republican said.

Balancing those concerns against the Lottery’s interests in transparency isn’t a close call, he said.

That’s in line with a New Hampshire judge’s decision last year to allow the winner of a nearly $560 million Powerball jackpot to stay anonymous. The woman signed the ticket before she realized that state law would let her create a trust to shield her identity. The judge noted that she could be harassed or solicited for money.

Trusts are allowed in at least two other states besides New Hampshire, while a policy from South Carolina’s lottery board allows anonymity. The winner of a $1.5 billion ticket bought at a South Carolina convenience store last year remains unknown under that policy.

Lottery fraud is a concern. In 2017, a programmer for the Multi-State Lottery Association got up to 25 years in prison for rigging a computer program to enable him to pick winning numbers in games in Colorado, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma between 2005 and 2011.

The executive director of the Iowa-based lottery association, which runs the Powerball game in 44 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, said he understands why some states are moving toward winner secrecy.

“However, the disclosure of winner names is one way lotteries are working to keep the process transparent,” association Executive Director J. Bret Toyne said. “It shows the public that everyday people are randomly winning the prizes.”

At least nine states have laws that letter lottery winners keep their names a secret — and Arizona could join them shortly.