While your chances of winning the lottery are roughly one-quarter of the odds that you will die in an asteroid strike — 1 in 74,817,414 chance of dying in an asteroid strike, versus a 1 in 292,201,3038 change of winning the top Powerball prize — you still need to take steps to protect your personal assets, such as lottery winnings, in the event of a divorce.
Or, to look at the odds more pragmatically, if you win the lottery, fail to adequately protect your interest, and then become embroiled in an adversarial divorce, you face a 1 in 1 chance that your spouse will almost certainly try to take half of your winnings.
Minnesota law does offer you protection against this very scenario. Under the laws of Minnesota, couples are allowed to have separate, personal properties and assets. This will protect the assets from possible surrender as part of a divorce proceeding.
However, to utilize this protection, any assets that you wish to maintain outside of the marriage must be kept separate and apart at all times from shared marital assets. For lottery winnings, this means that the lottery ticket must have been your sole property, purchased with your personal funds, and that any winnings from that ticket would need to have been deposited in an account in your name, accessible only by you.
If any of the lottery proceeds are at any time co-mingled with shared marital assets — by doing such things depositing some or all of the winnings into an account both spouses have equal ownership and access to — things become much more complicated.
In such a case, the spouse who did not win the lottery could mount a fairly successful legal argument that that had rights to one-half of the lottery prize that was in the shared account, or even one-half of the total amount won. If any of the lottery proceeds are deposited into any account controlled solely by the non-winning spouse, they could claim that the money is their sole property, much as the original lottery winner could do by depositing the winnings into their personal account.
Whether you see divorce in your future or not, it is vitally important that you take steps today to protect your personal assets. This is equally true regardless of whether you have gained these assets through hard work or blind luck.
Contact us today to see what our experienced legal team can do to help you protect your personal assets.