Walt Blenner is a Tampa Bay personal injury lawyer who also does some estate planning and recently fell into a niche of representing lottery winners.
About three years ago, Blenner helped a man who won a $3 million scratch-off secure his newfound wealth. He’s also written blog posts on his law firm website, providing guidance to lottery winners, and has consulted with several of them on the phone.
Then came Shane Missler, the 20-year-old Port Richey man who claimed the $450 million Mega Millions jackpot on Friday.
Among the advice Blenner has told his new client so far: "Your old life is gone and you can never go back to that life. It will never be the same."
Winning the lottery can cause a "roller coaster of emotions," said Blenner in his first interview since Missler’s win. But that euphoria is followed by a trail of important decisions.
First, there’s the security and privacy phase.
In Missler’s case, "security became paramount" due to the huge windfall, Blenner said.
In general, he added, lottery winners will shut off social media accounts, cancel phone accounts and use no-contract phones to communicate with family members.
Once privacy and security parameters are in place, winners must then chart their futures.
In the case of Blenner’s $3 million scratch-off winner, the man went to his local bank and opened three different accounts: one for investments, one for spending, and a third for his children.
But Missler’s financial setup will be vastly different. He took the lump-sum payment of $281,874,999, and minus taxes, received $211,406,249.25. Lottery officials said Friday the money will be paid to a trust named "Secret 007, LLC," that is set up with Missler as the managing member.
"With an enormous amount, you don’t really do active investments. You do wealth management," Blenner said. "You already have all the money in the world."
Lottery winners also have to consider upgrading their insurance, from car to homeowner’s policies. They can also sign up for something called "kidnap and ransom" insurance.
"The world is full of people who would do anything to sue a lottery winner," Blenner said.
There’s also the question of disappearing for a while until the media frenzy settles. With smaller lottery winners, they can take a cruise or vacation for a couple of weeks and return to find that "the media is on to 15 other things in that time frame."
"When it’s a big number," Blenner said, "people remember."
Missler, his lawyer added without offering many details, is "nowhere locally."
Once lottery winners return from their impromptu vacations, the real long-term decisions set in: Do they quit their job? Do they rent or buy new property? Where will they live?
On Saturday, Missler texted Blenner from his new undisclosed location.
"He’s doing well," Blenner said. "He’s a very poised 20-year-old and he’s got everything going right for him. He’s got a close family, and a close group of advisers, and we do hope to work with him for years to come."
Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] Follow @lauracmorel.