Hit the lottery & remain anonymous? Not in Florida

- She stood before the cameras and held a novelty check that was eleven digits long.

Maureen Smith made an appearance just after claiming her share of a record $1.5 billion dollar Powerball prize. And she did so voluntarily.

Contrary to popular opinion, winners of Florida Lottery jackpots are not required to stage a news conference. They don't have to squint under the lights; struggle to answer reporter questions; or grin with the fake check.

That decision is up to them.

However, jackpot winners are required to identify themselves to the lottery and, in turn, state law requires the Lottery to make the winner's name available for anyone who asks for it. That makes their identity public.

The lottery website asks and answers the question point blank: Can Lottery winners remain anonymous? No.

READ THE LOTTERY’S FAQ: http://www.flalottery.com/faq

As a government-run entity, the lottery says state law requires it to disclose a jackpot winner's name, city of residence, game won, date won, and amount won to any third party that requests the information.

It's a public record, essentially.

Now, if Smith had bought her Powerball ticket in another state it is possible she might have remained anonymous.

According to the Multi-State Lottery Association, five states that play Powerball allow winners' identities to remain secret. Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, and Ohio will keep your secret.

No matter where a winner lives, it's smart to hire an attorney who might help limit your exposure (and potentially liability). Many wealth experts suggest claiming the winnings in a trust.

WHAT’S A TRUST: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/trust.asp

Some sudden wealth advisors recommend a trust within a trust for large jackpots like Smith's.

In Smith's case, her check was not written to her. The lottery made it to the order of "Nickel 95 Trust." That suggests Smith has sought sage advice in planning her financial future.

And yet, the trust did not shield her.

She stood there with the check, grinned and squinted and fielded reporters' questions.

Perhaps we, the journalists are to blame.

The Multi-State Lottery Association counsels jackpot winners to step forward. It's a matter of pragmatism, the association says.

"Most of the time, it is advisable to get it over with the press so that you don't have one or more reporters following you around to get that 'exclusive interview.'"

Ouch.

READ MUSL’S ADVICE: http://www.powerball.com/pb_contact.asp

The truth hurts.

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