A New Hampshire woman found out she was the winner of the $559.7 million Powerball grand prize drawn on Jan. 6. Then she made a "huge mistake." Following instructions on the state lottery website, she signed the back of the ticket, which seemed like a no-brainer. But according to her lawyer, Steven Gordon, the woman had hoped to collect her winnings anonymously—allowing her to set up a charity—to maintain her privacy and "the freedom to walk into a grocery store or attend public events without being known or targeted as the winner of a half-billion dollars," per the Union Leader. This is possible: Under New Hampshire's Right to Know law, lottery winnings can be awarded to a trust if the name of the trust appears on the winning ticket, reports NPR. As the woman's name appears instead, it is to be released when the winnings are claimed.
For this reason, Gordon's law firm warned the winner not to sign a name on the ticket just two days after the draw. "It becomes public, and you lost the option of staying anonymous," attorney William Shaheen said on the firm's website. The post went on to explain a 2016 Powerball winner was able to collect $487 million through a trust Shaheen created, called the Robin Egg 2016 Nominee Trust. Gordon says he has since asked lottery officials if his client's name could be whited out from the ticket, but was told this would invalidate the ticket for a loss of winnings. "While we respect this player's desire to remain anonymous, state statutes and lottery rules clearly dictate protocols," a lottery rep says. The woman, whose ticket was sold in Merrimack, is now seeking a court order to allow anonymous collection before the prize expires in 11 months. (Read more New Hampshire stories.)