A customer purchases Powerball lottery tickets for a $ 700 million jackpot at a newsstand in New York City on August 23, 2017.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The Mega Millions jackpot has continued its march towards $ 1 billion.
With no ticket matching all six numbers drawn on Tuesday night, the grand prize is now $ 970 million for the next Friday night drawing. And the Powerball jackpot is not far away for the Wednesday night draw: $ 730 million.
Both jackpots, which are among the top 10 biggest of all time, have increased since September with no winner twice weekly draws.
Of course that will change at some point. And if you hold the winning ticket in both games, you will also find that your life will change dramatically. While the gust of wind opens up a world of possibilities, it can also mean that you are leaving your old life behind.
“On the one hand, it’s a fantastic experience, but on the other, it can make necessary changes that can create fear,” said Walt Blenner, attorney and founder of the Blenner Law Group in Palm Harbor, Florida.
Here are some mistakes winners should avoid.
It’s a mistake to get the news out there, Blenner said.
“Keep it as nuclear as possible – just tell the immediate family,” he said.
Even then, he said, words could come out or people in your life could start putting two and two together.
“For these gigantic victories everyone is looking for who has won,” said Blenner.
The goal should be to protect your identity when you can when you are claiming your winnings. In some states, winners can remain anonymous. With others, you can set up a foundation or other legal entity to receive the award, keeping your own name out of the public domain.
And you may have to put in some effort to keep the news close. That said, be ready to tell white lies when preparing to win the award or dealing with acute emotions means you can’t go to work or have to give up social obligations.
“Lots of people don’t like to deceive others, but this case is about self-preservation and security,” said Blenner.
Depending on which state you bought the winning ticket in, you can claim jackpots for both Powerball and Mega Millions from three months to a year.
In other words, it is well worth exploring your options – both in terms of shielding your identity if possible, and the ways in which you would like to receive the money.
And in general, it’s not that easy to get that much money into your checking account. When Blemmer helped a jackpot winner, the financial institution received the money it needed to prepare.
“They had to tell the federal government that they were getting this big check and that it was not from a foreign country,” said Blenner.
Before making a claim, you should assemble a team of seasoned professionals: ideally a lawyer, accountant and financial advisor.
“When you get to these stratospheric amounts of money, you don’t even know what you don’t know,” said Blenner.
For example, there may be ways to minimize your tax burden. While 24% of large lottery winnings are withheld for federal taxes, the highest marginal rate of 37% means you would owe a lot more. As a rule, state taxes must also be taken into account.
Someone on the team should also serve as the gatekeeper. That means they can answer queries from moochers or scammers or from anyone else who wants a piece of your windfall.
It’s worth noting that most people never have to worry about these things. The odds are 1 in 302 million for Mega Millions and 1 in 292 million for Powerball.