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When do you need to get a lawyer?

Emperor's avatar - Aug11 01.jpg
Emperor

Everytime someone wins a huge Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot, the first thing they are told to do is "contact a lawyer". This is probably a stupid question, but why exactly do you need a lawyer? What is there that a lawyer will do for you that can't be handled in the lottery office when you go to claim you multi-million dollar prize? I've always been curious on this one.

Second, what is the prize cutoff for when you need to contact a lawyer and when you can just take care of it by yourself? For example, let's say I'm lucky enough to win a $200,000 Powerball prize. Do I need a lawyer to help me claim that, or could I just waltz into the lottery office and do it myself? 

four4me's avatar - gate1
four4me
In response to Emperor

Depending or where you live you might need a lawyer to form a trust so you can collect your winnings anomalously.  Of course if you already have the paper work and know how to fill out the paperwork. Then there's no need for a lawyer. A lawyer can also advise you of the many things you might want to do before and after you claim your prize.

If you win 200,000 grand no big deal. Claim it yourself. If it's going to cause you a hardship to claim it yourself. Because they might want to put your name, face and other personal information on their website.  You might want to think about anonymity. Lawyers have that paperwork.  

The lottery cant advise you in any way other than to contact a lawyer they do not want to be held liable if you should suffer some misfortune, calamity, or other occurrence. Because they offered you advise and later on you decided to sue them if things didn't work out as planned.

tntea's avatar - Lottery-059.jpg
tntea

To get rid of some that loot after you collect.     

Seriously I haven't a clue.  However, I would make sure the lawyer was a good one if I hired him/her.

bashley572's avatar - starwars14
bashley572
In response to tntea

Good luck finding a 'Good one'  I have worked with many different attorneys for over 10 years and even after thinking one is good, all of a sudden they do something that you would never expect!!! Out of about 10 that I have worked with through my job, I would only TRUST one.  But I would have to ask him to leave the firm he is working for (its a small one) as I really can't trust the guy he works for.  But at the same time I understand WHY attorney's are that way.  There JOB requires them to think that they are ALWAYS "right" so they can 'win the case'

Avatar
KY Floyd

This is a bit like asking when you need a lawyer if you're arrested. Even if you're innocent, unless the charges are very minor (or you aren't worried about the consequences) you need a lawyer as soon as you're arrested.

Unless you've already taken the necessary steps to protect yourself, your estate, and your heirs, when you need a lawyer is the same. You need a lawyer the instant you have enough money, or are entitled to the money, that it's worth some effort to protect it. Of course you won't know until the drawing makes it the winner, but the moment you buy the winning ticket you're at risk of losing any of the money you will win*.

The threshold for needing a lawyer is a bit more subjective, and will depend on other circumstances, but here are a couple of ideas. As soon as your (potential) estate exceeds what can pass to your heirs without the government taking a cut you should be considering how to minimize their share. Plenty of people don't even have wills, nevermind an actual estate plan. Suppose you don't have a will yet, and win the lottery in a state that figures people without wills want the state to get a share? How much liability insurance do you have? Even if you haven't won the lottery, the answer for most people is not enough.  While you don't need a lawyer to help you buy insurance, most people need somebody (other than their agent) to tell them they don't have enough insurance. Unlike others who can tell you in general terms that you're under-insured, a lawyer can advise you about your realistic liability, and help you minimize that liability. For 200k, you just need a will and good liability insurance. For a jackpot most people will need a lot more advice.

 * Actually you can be at risk long before even buying the ticket. Adults generally have 3 years to file a lawsuit, and minors have 3 years from the day they become an adult. If you hit a 5 year old with your car later today and win the lottery in 15 years you could theoretically lose it all to the kid you hit. 

ThatScaryChick's avatar - pI8lWzJ
ThatScaryChick

I believe there have been many people who have claimed jackpots big and small without a lawyer and are doing fine. But me personally, If I won something in the millions I would probably hire won.

justxploring's avatar - villiarna
justxploring
In response to bashley572

I must have met a few of them, Bashley!  I've gotten really terrible advice from attorneys, but not as bad as the advice I got from financial advisors. If I won a lot of money, I would search for a good estate attorney. 

Regarding the OP, hiring an attorney is a personal choice, but IMO you don't need to win the lottery to hire an attorney. You can complete your own will, but they're not always valid (depends on the state) and an attorney can usually suggest ways to protect your assets so your family won't need to go to probate court to claim them.  Unfortunately, lawyers are expensive. 

You don't need to hire an attorney, but suddenly everyone knows you have money and you never know who will suddenly "slip" down your front steps.

time*treat's avatar - radar
time*treat
In response to Emperor

You hire one because the dirtbags coming after your newly realized wealth will hire one. He's your guard dog on paper.

tntea's avatar - Lottery-059.jpg
tntea
In response to time*treat

Why allow anyone to know if you have a lawyer?

Unless they need to know because they are looking for a way to sue you.

time*treat's avatar - radar
time*treat

You don't have to let random people know. "On paper" simply means "in legal matters".
One lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than 1,000 guys with guns. 

TexasDreams's avatar - Trek ROMSYM2.gif
TexasDreams

I think it depends on the individual's circumstances. Many people have wealth from either a wining lotto ticket or years of hard work. Regardless, if you have a sizable financial holding either from a winning lotto ticket or you just have an average amount in a Roth IRA or 401k, you need a means to protect it from individuals who may prey (ie frivolous lawsuits) on your good holdings. A person can use the "do it yourself" forms from the local department store or download them from online websites, however, if you have the sizable holdings a winning lotto ticket can bring, you need more knowledge on how to legally protect your new found assets. A lawyer should have that knowledge.  A good lawyer should be able to to organize your assets protection around three key areas: 1) Lawsuits, 2) Income Taxes, and 3) Estate and Retirement Planning. (Childers 2008)  

bashley572's avatar - starwars14
bashley572
In response to time*treat

I Agree!

That is a really good point. Once you have money you may find alot of people that didn't bother to go after you (sue you) for many things, now will.  But again it also goes to my point of finding one you trust.  Anyone see Michael Clayton ??? Did you see how the attorneys were only interested in BILLABLE HOURS??  Once you have one that you can 'trust' you should be able to feel ok about not being 'taken' on billable hours.

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