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What every lottery winner needs to know

Sonny Zaveri sold the winning Mega Millions lottery

Sonny Zaveri sold the winning Mega Millions lottery ticket at his Rocky Point stationery store, lottery officials said. (Dec. 23, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Before hiring a chef, chauffeur or personal trainer, Michael Kresh, a certified financial planner in Islandia, suggests the holder of the $162-million lottery ticket start recruiting a financial quarterback instead.

That would be a big-picture adviser to coordinate a team of specialists in taxes, estate planning and investing. And if you're new to the 35 percent tax bracket, look for an adviser who's worked with other "sudden wealth" recipients, he says.

Speaking of taxes, the Internal Revenue Service and New York State -- if you reside here -- will be withholding part of your winnings, but not enough to cover your tax bill, so plan to pony up more to Uncle Sam and the state come April 15, Kresh says.

Look for ongoing ways to minimize your tax hit, says Patricia Galteri, chair of the trusts and estates practice at the Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein law firm in Garden City. You can start giving some of your windfall to friends and family in $13,000 annual chunks -- $26,000 if you're married - called "annual exclusion gifts" on which your loved ones will not be taxed. But watch out for what Kresh calls "the relativity of money -- the more money you have, the more relatives you find you have."

If you're charitably inclined, you might want to set up a private foundation or a "donor advised fund" in which you earmark a certain amount of money - tax-deductible - to an administrator, such as Fidelity Investments or the Long Island Community Foundation, which will investigate recipients for you. And with an eye to your demise, you will want to establish trusts to help reduce the estate tax.

As for investing, expect to hear of lots of "opportunities," all of which should be directed to your financial quarterback, says Kresh, keeping you off the hook with your brother-in-law or next-door neighbor.

Despite the pleasure of wealth, "life is a lot more complicated," says Brent Lipschultz, a principal in Eisner Llp's personal-wealth advisory practice in Manhattan. That means you won't want to put all your investments in one basket, but instead spread them around among several money managers, he says.

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