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5 things to do first if you win the Mega Millions or Powerball jackpot




There are more than $ 800 million at stake in the country's two largest lotteries.

No ticket matching all winning numbers on Friday night's Mega Millions drawing, the jackpot has jumped to $ 475 million.

Between it and Powerball's $ 350 million top prize, a huge $ 825 million is waiting for winners in the next two drawings: Saturday night for Powerball and Tuesday night for Mega Millions.

MARK RALSTON | AFP | Getty Images

If you're lucky enough to hit the jackpot in both games, there are some things experts recommend doing right off the bat to protect your fall.

1[ads1]. Chill

While you may be eager to claim your winnings, experts say it's best not to hurry to the lottery headquarters the day you find yourself becoming one of the richest people in the country.

For both Powerball and Mega Millions jackpots, winners come anywhere from three or six months to a year to claim their prize, depending on where the winning ticket was purchased.

Experts recommended taking a deep breath and spending as much time as you need to prepare to claim your winnings. It would include gathering a team of experienced professionals: a lawyer, financial planner, tax advisor, and insurance agent.

"The time between the day you win the lottery and the day you claim is your last period of normality," said Jason Kurland, a partner of Rivkin Radler, a law firm in Uniondale, New York.

2. Protect Your Ticket

The standard advice from experts is to sign the back of the winning ticket so that if you are separated from it, your signature can help you still get the prize.

However, signing may interfere with your ability to hide your identity from the public, depending on where you purchased it. A handful of states allow you to claim anonymously while others require the winner's name to be announced. Others will allow a trust or other legal entity to claim the price on your behalf, thus keeping your name out of the public eye.

This illustrates why you should contact an experienced lawyer before doing much of everything. And make sure you put the original winning ticket in a safe place.

3. Keep quiet

4. Weighing the Payment Options

Jackpot winners get to decide on an immediate lump sum or spread their winnings over three decades. Anyway, the IRS will take 24% before the money comes to you.

For the $ 475 million Mega Millions jackpot, the cash alternative is $ 307 million. For the $ 350 million Powerball haul, it's $ 221 million.

The 24% federal tax deduction will reduce Mega Millions' cash option by $ 73.7 million to $ 233.3 million and Powerball by $ 53 million to $ 168 million. However, because the top marginal tax rate is 37%, the winner should expect it to be due more to Uncle Sam during tax time.

In addition, state taxes are usually withheld or are due, depending on where you live and where the ticket was purchased.

5. Take a Deep Breath

Before using a dime, think about what your sudden wealth means. Not just financially, but emotionally.

Instead of giving in to the temptation to buy big ticket goods right off the bat, take the time to deal with the size of your win.

This is often when the winners begin to think about their heritage and what social contributions they will make. Some even create their charitable organizations.

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