Despite the terrible odds – one in 302.5 million – someone will eventually win the Mega Millions jackpot, which is at $1.6 billion on Tuesday night.
Sure, the drawing will leave most of us very disappointed but some lucky winner(s) will have a whole bunch of questions.
Here are a few guideposts for handling your newfound fortune:
Sign the ticket
Did you put your John Hancock on it? If not, bad move. Imagine winning and you go look for your ticket and it’s gone.
Then your shiftless roommate — who can’t put his cereal bowl in the sink, let alone get to the store to stand in line for lottery tickets — shows up a few days later in a Bugatti Chiron.
Sign that bad boy. Like, now. Then take a selfie with it.
Play nice with others
Are you in a work pool with five or 50 other people? Well, as nice as it is to trust your pals and co-workers, relationships have crumbled over much, much less than a nine-digit payday.
Picture this: Chet, who’s been collecting the office’s lottery contributions for time immemorial, doesn’t show up to work Thursday. You call to find him on Necker Island, which he just purchased from Richard Branson.
Turns out, Chet won the lottery. Doesn’t that mean that you won the lottery, too? Well, no, Chet explains. He bought the office’s tickets on a different trip to the Shop ‘n’ Save. The winning ticket, he says, was purchased when he went to the Shop ‘n’ Save to purchase tickets for himself.
“That’s preposterous! Do you have proof, Chet? … Chet? … Hello?”
Good luck getting to Necker Island.
If you’re an office pool member, make sure Chet sets everyone up with photocopies of the pool tickets, or that he posts them somewhere that everyone can see them. It’ll mean you’re keeping Chet in check — not that anyone has reason to doubt Chet, but just in case — and it’s more fun for you as you can giddily check the numbers yourself.
How long do I have to claim the jackpot?
You are in no hurry to make these decisions. Depending on your state, you will have between 180 days and a year to pick up your oversized check, so first things first.
You need good people, people you trust, to help you manage your money.
Take your time, do some research and find a reputable lawyer and a certified financial planner, pronto. Then, you’ll want to hire specialists who can handle your taxes and estate planning. You’ll feel much better with a skilled team watching over your interests.
Can you keep your name a secret?
Only a handful of states — Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas, among them — permit you to remain nameless.
In Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, you can set up a trust before collecting a prize and send a lawyer to pick it up for you. And yes, a lawyer can help you set up a trust.
You might want a new phone number and email address. It might even be worthwhile to take off to Belize for a week or three until the pesky media loses interest.
You’re likely going to be publicly identified, so your chances of avoiding that call from your moochy Uncle Jasper are out the window.
Choosing how to take the jackpot – by lump sum or over time?
You won! Congrats! You’ve defied truly astonishing odds. Truly.
Now how would you like your millions? In a lump sum or doled out over time?
If you choose the former, expect to get $354 million for Powerball or $904 million for Mega Millions. Sorry, you won’t quite make the Billionaires’ Club. Bill Gates sends his regrets.
But what if you have the patience of Job and are content to maximize the payout by collecting checks over time? Sadly, you still won’t be a billionaire. It’ll take you almost 30 years to get all that money, and because you’re now in the same tax bracket as Mr. Gates, the federal government will come looking for 37% of your loot.
In some states without income tax or with special rules for lottery winners, the blow will be softer, but Uncle Sam will always want his money. Hop over to USAMega.com to see the rules where you live.