Local News

'Lottery attorney' warns: Play it safe to be sure big win doesn't turn out to be a loss

Posted January 20, 2021 6:26 p.m. EST
Updated January 21, 2021 4:27 a.m. EST

The Mega Millions jackpot is $970 million and the Powerball is up to $730 million. There’s no question that kind of money is life changing for most Americans, and many lined up to buy a PowerBall ticket on Wednesday.

"[It’s been] busy all day today," says Paul Gill, owner of Duke’s Gas Station in Rocky Mount. "Every other customer buys a PowerBall ticket."

With the pot ballooning to nearly a billion dollars, many hope this will be their lucky break. Some even know how they’ll spend the money.

"My wife, my son and my daughter have school loans," said Ron Cooper, as he bought a ticket. "First thing, I’d pay those school loans off. My dad is 89 years old. I’d make sure he’s taken care of."

Shopper Rudolph Battle says he’d also take care of family first, and then he’d take care of his city.

He said he would, "Probably invest in the city of Rocky Mount, help clean it up a little bit."

It’s good to have a solid plan, says Kurt Panouses, a CPA and attorney who has worked with around 20 lottery winners since 1991.

"The person’s safety and their protection is very, very important," says Panouses, who’s known as the ‘lottery attorney.’ "That should be their primary concern."

Panouses says he’s seen lottery winnings do great things for people, but he’s also seen people blow through their winnings and ruin relationships.

"I’ve had clients, though not very many of them, who have gone through the money because they live the lifestyle that was completely different than what they had before," says Panouses, "[Like] checking into a hotel and staying in the hotel, you know, for 60 days and they go through a couple million dollars real quick."

Panouses says he tells clients to make a list of things they must have and things they’d like to have. He then recommends that they wait six months to see if they really need the things they’d like to have.

"I look at my role is is trying to keep them as safe as possible," he says.

Panouses says that while money doesn’t buy happiness, it does give people freedom.

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