Family Dispute Over Lottery Winnings Lands in Nova Scotia Court

A Nova Scotia woman has sued her nephew after a $1.2 million “Chase the Ace” grand prize was divided equally between them. The woman claims that she never intended to split the winnings with the family member and that she had simply given him money to buy a ticket for her.

What is Chase the Ace?

Chase the Ace is a fundraising technique that is growing in popularity in the Maritimes, with small towns and other rural areas using it as a means to raise money for various community projects. In this case, funds were being raised to support two volunteer fire departments.

Chase the Ace is similar to a 50-50 draw; however, instead of the person with the winning ticket getting 50% of the ticket sales, that person gets only 20% of the ticket sales, but also has the chance to draw one card from a full deck to win a larger jackpot. The winning card is the ace of spades. If the person does not draw the ace, 30% of the ticket sales are added to the jackpot. Each week, participants purchase tickets and draw cards from the deck of cards. The jackpot accumulates weekly, and the deck is reduced weekly, until someone pulls the ace. The person who pulls the ace then wins the accumulated jackpot.

The Woman’s Allegations

The family drama began earlier this July. According to the woman, she sent her nephew $100 through an e-transfer so that he could buy her tickets to the local Chase the Ace draw. She told the nephew to write his name on the tickets beside hers as a “good luck charm” as she believed he had unnaturally good luck when it came to draws and that “there seemed to be some magic” to his name. The woman is adamant that, despite her request, she had no intention of splitting any winnings with him.

By the time the woman won the Chase the Ace in question, the game had been going on for 50 weeks. There were only two cards left in the deck to choose from. Neither she nor the nephew were present for the big draw, but a volunteer pulled a card on their behalf. The woman received a call at home telling her that she and the nephew had won (since both of their names were on the ticket).

The day after the draw, the woman asked the nephew how much money he was expecting to receive out of the winnings. He said he expected half of what she had won. His parents also got involved, arguing that since his name was on the ticket he was therefore entitled to 50% of the winnings.

The family dispute played out on television, when the woman and her nephew arrived at the firehall in their hometown to collect the winnings. The woman appeared to be caught off-guard when she and the nephew were each handed a cheque for $611,319.50, and angrily told reporters that she would be getting a lawyer and taking the nephew to court.

The woman claimed that had the nephew not challenged her for half of the winnings she would have given him $150,000 since, in her words, he was “the son that I never had”. However, she went on to say that “Tyrone is getting nothing from me…[i]t’s just for the principle. We were so close. He broke my heart. He broke it…people go crazy when it comes to money.”

The Lawsuit

The woman filed a lawsuit last week, along with a motion for a preservation order seeking to freeze the nephew’s winnings until the matter is resolved. Her lawyer has said that the winning ticket was purchased with the woman’s money, and that there was no agreement between the woman and her nephew to split the jackpot. He emphasized that although the fact that the nephew’s name is also on the ticket has “obviously been a point of contention”, the mere presence of his name on the ticket “doesn’t create a contract”. The lawyer notes that the woman has supported her nephew financially and emotionally throughout his life and that she hopes that their relationship can be reconciled in the future.

A hearing on the motion for a preservation order is scheduled for August 10. We will continue to follow developments in this matter. In the interim, if you have questions about a family law dispute or questions about how a lottery win can be factored into an estate plan, contact the knowledgeable lawyers at Duncan Linton LLP in Waterloo. For over 150 years, we have assisted clients in Kitchener-Waterloo, the greater Waterloo Region, Cambridge, and across Southern Ontario with their family law and wills and estate questions. We offer personalized, tailored services that allow each of our clients to meet their long-term objectives. Call us at (519) 886-3340 or contact us online for a consultation.