(AG Week) - My day started at 3 a.m. as I was returning some family members to the airport after they were with us for Christmas and New Year’s. The roads were not good, and I was driving home by myself, so I had the radio on. Fortunately a news story gave me an idea for this article.
The news headline started off with two lucky Minnesotans that had each won the million-dollar New Year’s Day lottery. I don’t know any details, but the story caught my attention.
When I think of the lottery, I think of a number of things. I won’t share them all, but one of them is, you must play to win. That sounds pretty obvious, but since I don’t play, my expectations of winning the lottery are exactly zero.
The second thing that I think of is, "What are the chances?" We know that millions of people regularly play all kinds of different lottery games, and if somebody wins anything over $100,000 the whole town knows and it seems like the store that sold the winning ticket is recognized.
Now if somebody wins $1 million or more it’s on every radio station and in the state newspapers. I get it, because it is fun, exciting and kind of a big deal for someone. Of course, the winner gives a chunk of that back in taxes, but that is not talked about and a subject for later.
Wouldn’t it be one of the most awesome and notable news stories of the year if three family members all happened to play the same lottery and each win a million-dollar prize the same day. That would be epic. What are the chances of that? The chances of one person winning the lottery is just a tiny fraction of a percentage, but for three people from the same family to win the lottery at the same time with three separate tickets? Mathematically, I guess there is a chance, but the probability has to be almost zero.
So, what happens when a farm couple distributes their estate, and one child has been playing the farm lottery everyday since they were 15 years old and the other three children are great children but have never bought a farm lottery ticket? The parents, in an attempt to do estate planning and be fair to all children, buy a lottery ticket for each of those children who did not buy a ticket for themselves. Now when mom and dad die, three children from the same family all win the lottery the same day without even playing! What are the chances of that?
So now the subject I mentioned earlier to “talk about later.” The extra bonus to the farm lottery is that those three heirs all got their million dollars, both without playing and without having to pay tax because of stepped up basis, a buyout agreement, or a tax-free benefit of life insurance that the payers already paid the tax on. What are the chances of that?
Interestingly, the state and national lottery winners are elated after both buying a ticket and knowing they must pay a bunch of tax. But what is the response of those three non-farming heirs whose parents happen to farm? They now get a chunk of change tax free? Is someone still not happy? Even though they did not buy a ticket? Sure, the farming heir won too, but they were buying tickets for years. Sounds like four winners the same day. What are the chances of that? Actually, it is very possible.
I hope everyone is happy, but I am reminded that regardless of what people get, you can’t buy happiness.
By Myron Friesen
January 25, 2023