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Lottery winner demonstrates the right way to claim a big jackpot

Mar 20, 2008, 5:14 pm

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Mega Millions

The Illinois woman knew on Dec. 18, the winning lottery ticket she held would change her life.

On March 19, she was claiming an oversized check from the state and answering questions from news media.

That the winner picked up the $81.5 million prize, her half of a $163 million Mega Millions jackpot drawing, is a big deal.

That it took three months is a rarity. She spent the time to work with lawyers and financial advisers to maintain anonymity and protect assets — something the state lottery agency wants other potential winners to note.

Sporting large sunglasses, the winner, a pharmacist, came forward, but she refused to provide her name or where she lived. An occasional player, she bought the winning ticket at a gas station at 851 S. Sutton Rd. in Streamwood.

"I came back home. My husband said, 'Let me check your ticket,' " she said. A quick confirmation through an Internet site and the two were screaming in delight. "It was a shocking moment."

The first step wasn't to get the money. A family member referred them to Wood Dale attorney Terry Zimmer, who assembled an advisory team, including estate planner Richard Kuenster.

"I told her get an unlisted number A.S.A.P.," Kuenster said.

The team helped the family create the JYS Family Limited Partnership and put together entities to keep the winner's identity from the public, and shield the money from some taxes, creditors and frivolous lawsuits while providing for her, her husband, children and any future grandchildren, Kuenster said.

"We're so proud of them for taking that time," said acting Illinois Lottery Superintendent Jodie Winnett. "What a sharp winner we have in Illinois and we hope that the rest of our community will hear this and that they'll take a deep breath and consider protecting themselves."

The winner of an $81 million lottery prize picks up her check Wednesday with her lawyer, Terry Zimmer.

Thanks to JackpotWanna for the tip.

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