Are You Obligated to Share Mega Millions Jackpot with Your Spouse?

Are You Obligated to Share Mega Millions Jackpot with Your Spouse?

Winning the Mega Millions jackpot should be the happiest moment of your life. Champagne, celebrations, dreams about the future… or not? If you are passionate about the lottery, you probably know about the so-called curse of the lottery winner. The curse has managed to destroy multiple lives through the years.

Briefly said, this curse shows that many new lottery millionaires have seen the devastation in their life rather than joy.

Often, the problems stemmed from family members and loved ones attempting to claim at least some portion of the prize.

So, let’s go back to the original scenario – you’ve just won the Mega Millions jackpot and you’re wondering what to do about protecting your fortune. Chances are that you’d want to share the money with your significant other, but there are instances in which you may want to keep everything to yourself.

Is there any law or regulation forcing you to share the fortunate millions with your husband or wife? This is what we’ll try to find out.

What the Heck is Community Property?

If you want to keep the entire amount for yourself, there are a few legal things you will need to acquaint yourself with. Yes, we know that legal speak is quite boring, but a bit of knowledge can prove to be life-saving in the long run.

The first and the most important term to learn in relationship with your Mega Millions jackpot (or any other lottery jackpot for that matter) is community property.

Community property is simply a fancy term that refers to the money earned by the spouses during the marriage and the assets acquired. Community property is owned equally by the husband and the wife. Thus, a lottery ticket bought during the marriage will typically be considered community property and it will belong to both spouses. Tough luck here, mate!

As per usual, there are some exceptions to the rule. Louisiana, Arizona, California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Texas, Wisconsin and New Mexico are community property states. This means that in the event of a divorce, all property acquired during the marriage will be divided between the spouses.

In the other states, the so-called common law applies. This is where things can become a little bit trickier (hurray!).

According to common law, if your name appears on a deed or a registration document, it’s yours. Whenever it’s legally determined to belong to both you and your spouse, a 50/50 division will need to occur in the case of a divorce.

Whenever an item isn’t signed or it doesn’t feature the name of one spouse, it’s considered to belong to the one that paid for it. When massive amounts like those produced by the Mega Millions jackpot are involved, however, a spouse may decide to sue regardless of what common law statutes suggest.

So, What’s Your Spouse Entitled to?

If you’re really into a complicated situation and you don’t know whether you have to give any of the lottery jackpot to your spouse, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Otherwise, you risk losing a large portion of the funds that you’re not prepared to give away.

Generally, an attorney will have to get some information in order to determine what’s going on. You will be asked about when you bought the ticket (before or during the marriage), whether you’ve started a divorce process or you’d like to start it in the near future and whether you will have to pay child support in the case of a divorce.

A person who has bought a ticket while legally married, even if their spouse didn’t know about the purchase, may face lengthy legal battles in the future.

If you have already started a divorce process and you’ve just found out that you’ve won the Mega Millions jackpot, you will need to talk to your lawyer immediately. Figuring out whether you’ll have to give your spouse money depends on just how far along the separation procedure has moved.

What all of this information means is that things can become quite confusing when legal terms get involved. So, in case you don’t want to give your spouse or ex any money, you should definitely see a lawyer before you win anything. You know, just in case!

We’re Not Kidding, Things Can Get Serious!

This is a really, really, really serious matter. If things eventually go to court, every step you make will be scrutinized. When millions are involved, people can get vicious. Thus, you don’t want to leave anything to chance.

Here’s a simple story to illustrate the gravity of the situation.

Holly Lahti made headlines in 2011 when she won the Mega Millions jackpot of 190 million dollars. Holly was separated from her husband at the time, but they hadn’t gotten a divorce yet. This could have been one of the reasons why the Idaho women worked really hard towards keeping her privacy. Unfortunately, the media got a hold of the story and Holly’s face was plastered across multiple newspapers and websites.

Holly’s husband was an ex-con with dozens of arrests on his record. Needless to say, he saw Holly’s Mega Million win as his golden ticket. Because the couple wasn’t divorced at the time she won, the ex came looking for money.

The family got in a heated argument about it. Eventually, the husband was freed from having to pay child support and medical bills. Information about how the arrangement was reached and what the couple settled upon hasn’t been leaked. In an interview given some time after the big win, Holly refused to reveal how the money was split with her ex-husband. Apparently, however, he got a portion of the prize.

So, if you don’t want to follow in Holly’s footsteps, think about your financial well being in advance. True, the odds of winning the Mega Millions jackpot aren’t that high. In case you are estranged from your spouse or if you are separated, however, it’s definitely better to be safe rather than sorry.

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