Oh no! I’ve won lotto
Usually winning Lotto is great. You can take a long holiday, pay off the mortgage or help out the kids.
But sometimes a Lotto win, or any sudden windfall, can turn into a nightmare. Courts are riddled with couples, families and friends battling over a winning ticket. The ABC’s Law Report recently highlighted a few cases of love lost and Lotto.
A woman in a de facto relationship won $3 million. Twelve months later they separated. In court the woman argued she bought the ticket so she should keep the money. The man argued they were a couple when she bought the ticket. The court ruled the ticket was bought with joint funds and split the money 50/50.
A couple separated after a 20 year marriage. Before the divorce was finalised the woman won $6 million in Lotto. The man wanted a share arguing it was part of their joint assets. She argued they had been apart for six months so she had won the money on her own. The Family Court divided the couple’s assets into two pools – the lotto win in one, their assets in another. The judge ruled the man will get 15 per cent of the money left from Lotto.
In another case a woman was the family breadwinner as the man had a drug problem. There were no assets to divide when they separated. Eighteen months later the man won $5 million. She argued in the Family Court her financial contribution to the marriage should be recognised out of post-separation acquired property. Even though she had remarried, the Family Court ruled she should get 15 per cent.
The cases show the Family Court takes into account fairness and future needs in dividing a family’s assets, even after separation.
But what if you win Lotto and die? Joshua Crowther, a wills and estates expert at Stacks Law Firm, says ‘eligible persons’ including people who can show they were dependent on the deceased and lived with them for a while, as well as ex-spouses, can make a claim on the windfall. It becomes part of the estate that is divided pursuant to the will.
“If there’s no will, the estate, including lotto money, falls under laws of intestacy and is divided amongst relatives in a set order which can have very unintended effects,” Crowther said. “It’s better to draw up a will because if there aren’t any relatives it can all go to the State.”
Chances are you’ll never go through this turmoil. The odds on winning Lotto are one in 45 million. Then again, somebody has to win it…