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I just won the lottery! What do I do?

Well, congratulations. We all hate you now.

Actually, let us correct that; we all love you now, more than you've ever been loved before. But we may all end up hating you, eventually. And that's probably the bigger crisis.

But first, the fundamentals.

Step one: Sign the lottery ticket and call the lottery office.

Now.

If there's a way to dispute ownership of that ticket, it's going to happen, everything from claims of a verbal agreement to splitting the winnings to outright theft. This is particularly likely if you both play in your office pool and buy tickets separately – a judge recently ruled that a lottery winner had to part with some of the winnings because it wasn't perfectly clear which tickets were his and which were in the office pool.

READ: Tips for navigating your kids' birthday party circuit

If you've identified a winning ticket, you need to get to lottery officials at once, so they can identify you. The physical piece of paper in your hand is like carrying around a multi-million dollar check. The risk of it being lost or stolen is too great to wait, particularly if you don't follow step two ...

Step two. Shut up.

There are six states that allow a lottery winner to remain anonymous: Kansas, Maryland, Delaware, Michigan, North Dakota and Ohio. Every other state requires a lottery winner to be announced publically, and many of those states prohibit the use of third parties to claim a prize. They want human beings waving a giant check in front of a camera.

But the one consistent strain in the tales told about lottery winners — both those who have truly prospered after hitting the jackpot and those who eventually fell to ruin — is that they suddenly and permanently become the focus of unwanted attention. Family members will come to them looking for relief from their own financial hardships. Religious groups will almost immediately ask you to share your blessings with the needs and the faithful. Charities you've never heard of will look to you to expand. And among these supplicants will be straight-up charlatans looking to exploit your lack of experience with wealth.

READ: Crisis Button: I'm being threatened with blackmail? What should I do?

Keep your win a secret for as long as you can. That's the universal advice from winners.

Step three. Call a lawyer and a certified financial planner.

When the inevitable requests for money begin pouring in, you're going to want to be able to deflect to someone who can politely say no. You're also probably going to want to set up trusts that can manage contributions to charity and to your dependents in a tax-efficient manner. This will require the help of anestate planning attorney and a certified financial planner.

(By the way, you are probably going to want to take the lump sum payment and not the annual award. We know, we know; but the annual payments are more money over time! They're not. Inflation and the likelihood of future tax increases on dividends and capital gains make the lump sum payment more valuable now. If you want to spread out the cash, fund an investment trust with the lump sum. You'll earn more.)

READ: Valuable tips on the future: How to manage your digital afterlife

The trusts are important, not just for tax and legal purposes, but because they put a decision-making layer between you and those demanding your help. This is not to say that you should sign over the right to control the money. Never do that: Sign nothing that grants someone else the power to make significant disbursements from your accounts without your signature. But once the money is securely in your bank account, your biggest problems aren't going to be financial any more. They're going to be about your relationships and your character. If you fail the tests of relationship and character, then you'll have financial problems again.

Many of the stories of lottery winners broken by their good fortune stem from radical changes in their lifestyle.

People buy giant mansions, oblivious to the carrying costs of the property. Or they buy fancy cars without understanding the higher maintenance costs. At least as common, people make large investments in legitimate-but-risky business ventures without fully understanding the likelihood of failure. Establishing relationships with trustworthy financial advisors is essential.

READ: What should I take into consideration before investing?

Step four. Hit the books.

Of course, it can be hard for a layperson to evaluate the trustworthiness and advice of one financial advisor over another. So … you need to stop being a layperson.

Resolve, now, before other financial commitments are made, to spend at least one year quietly learning the principles of financial management. Enroll in classes. Start reading Rich Dad Poor Dad and the like. Perhaps more importantly, you'll need to be able to tell people that you're not going to dig deep into the money you've won until you're confident that you can use it wisely. Reasonable people will understand your thinking … and unreasonable people will out themselves with their reaction.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A 15-year-old Florida teen is in custody at the U.S.-Canada border, hours after police discovered the body of a woman believed to be his missing grandmother in a shallow grave near the boy’s home, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. Logan Tyler Mott was detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as he tried to enter Canada from Buffalo, New York, sheriff’s deputies said. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office had called Mott “armed and dangerous” and a person of interest in the death of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina June French. Mott was being watched by French at her Neptune Beach home while his father, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office corrections officer, was on vacation. Mott’s mother, Carrie Campbell-Mott, said the boy’s father, Eric Mott, was on vacation with his girlfriend. Eric Mott took an Uber home from the airport Wednesday after French never showed up to get them, Campbell-Mott said. When they got home, the door to their home was open and the house was ransacked, Campbell-Mott said. Eric Mott's guns were missing from a gun safe, Campbell-Mott said. French’s home in the Mayport area also was ransacked. Her weapons were gone, along with her Dodge Dart. Mott and French were reported missing after Logan didn't show up to high school on Monday or Tuesday. French also didn't show up for work Monday or Tuesday. A warrant was issued for his arrest Thursday on a charge of auto theft, deputies said. Originally, deputies believed that Tyler Mott and French may have been traveling together in the Dodge Dart. A missing child alert was issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The teen and the missing vehicle were spotted Thursday on surveillance video in south central Pennsylvania, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. In a statement, Campbell-Mott she was “relieved” that her son was in custody. “We just ask for everyone to give us time to sort out what happened,” Campbell-Mott said. “That no matter what, Logan is our child and we love him and are standing by him to help in any way. We want to find out what happened to Kristina and we need time for that to happen.” Campbell-Mott said a sheriff’s detective will fly to meet Logan on Saturday. In a statement, the May Institute, a nonprofit organization that employed French, said it was “truly devastated” to learn of her death. “Kristina was a friend and a role model to so many people. … She was a true champion for people with disabilities and advocated tirelessly for human rights. “We have lost a beautiful person and she will be dearly missed. It is a very sad day.”
  • UPDATE 11/24/17 11:16 pm: JSO says Logan Mott has been detained by US Customs and Border Protection, as he tried to enter Canada from the Buffalo, New York area. ORIGINAL STORY: It's a tragic update in the days-long search to find a missing 15-year-old and his grandmother.  The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announcing Friday afternoon they do believe foul play was involved, as they've recovered what they believe to be the body of 53-year-old Kristina French in the backyard of a Neptune Beach home connected to the two.  'The burial site was excavated today and human remains were located. They appear consistent with the description of Kristina French, but there will be no positive identification until the autopsy is completed by the medical examiner,' says JSO's Director of Investigations, Ron Lendvay.  At this point, JSO says 15-year-old Logan Mott is still missing, as is the silver Dodge Dart. Police say they do believe Mott is alive and in that vehicle.  'We have video surveillance of an individual we believe to be Logan Mott, with what we believe to be the car that's missing in this case, in south central Pennsylvania yesterday at 1:15 pm,' says Lendvay.  JSO says they're in the process of obtaining an arrest warrant for Mott for auto theft. He's also considered a person of interest in connection to the death of the person found in the backyard of the home on Seagate Avenue.  Police say Mott may also be in possession of firearms, as guns had been reported missing from that home, so if you do see him, you’re urged to call 911.
  • Phoenix teenager Jamal Hinton and grandmother Wanda Hence have turned their internet fame from 2016 into a tradition. >> Read more trending news Last year, Hence thought she was texting her grandson to invite him to dinner in a group text, but she was actually texting Jamal Hinton, 17. Hinton asked who was texting him and was told it was his grandmother. “I really thought it was my grandma, so I had to ask for a picture to make sure,” Hinton told BuzzFeed. The result was a selfie exchange from Hence to which Hinton replied, 'You're not my grandma!' But Hinton asked if he could still get a plate of food despite the mistake. Hence replied, “Of course you can. That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone.' KNXV reported that Hinton joined Hence’s family for dinner and is now her 'honorary grandson.' When Hinton arrived and shook Hence’s hand, the two soon embraced for a hug. 'I'd never seen her before and she welcomed me into her home,' Hinton told KNXV. 'That shows me how great of a person she is. I'm thankful for people like that.' 'He always has an open invite to our house for Thanksgiving,' Hence told WVEC Friday.   
  • Heads up, St. Johns County residents. The county says the St. Augustine Beach Pope Road beach access point will be closed beginning, Monday, November 27th, due to an Army Corps of Engineers beach renourishment project.  That project is expected to last through spring 2018, with the Pope Road beach access point remaining closed that entire time.  The county say the renourishment will help critically-eroded areas between Anastasia State Park and 8th Street in St. Augustine Beach.  The beach will remain open outside of work areas, but you're urged to use caution in the area.  For more information, click HERE.
  • UPDATE Friday morning:  Logan Mott’s mother has posted a heartfelt message on Facebook, pleading for a safe return of her 15-year-old son and his grandmother, Kristina French.  UPDATE 11/23/17 5:40 PM: The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says there’s no new information to release. ORIGINAL STORY: A missing child alert has been issued for 15-year-old Logan Mott out of Neptune Beach.  The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Jacksonville Police believe Logan is in the company of his grandmother, 53-year-old Kristina French.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says firearms are missing from a home they are associated with. Our partners at Action News Jax spoke with Logan’s mother who says the home that had the firearms looked like it had been ransacked.  The two are believed to traveling in a 2015 silver Dodge Dart with Florida tag D-L-L-T-4-2.  JSO says with the firearms missing, you should not approach them if you see them. You are asked to call 911. This is a developing story, check back for more updates. 

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