Now that you've won a billion dollars, experts say don't shout it from the highest hilltop. Instead, quietly call your attorney, accountant and financial adviser.
So what should you do once you learn you've just won nearly a billion dollars?
While some people may dream of buying a new house, paying off the mortgage or that stellar student loan and even taking a world cruise, people who make a living handling money recommend seeing a financial adviser or an attorney first before even thinking of spending a dime.
"If you win the Mega Millions jackpot, our advice would be to let it settle in a few minutes and then talk to a financial planner or a financial adviser to determine how you're going to claim the prize and what you're going to do with it," said Danielle Frizzi-Babb, communications director for the Ohio Lottery.
And with the jackpot Thursday already up to $970 million, "We recommend that you talk to somebody that has experience handling that amount of money and how you can claim it and wisely use it," she said.
The money makes up the largest Mega Millions jackpot in Ohio Lottery history, she said.
Tickets cost $2 apiece and the drawing will be held at 11 p.m. Friday. Mega Millions lottery drawings are held Tuesdays and Fridays. The Lottery Commission will know about a half hour later if someone has won, but they won't know who won until the winner shows up, which must happen within 180 days.
The winner need only sign the back of the ticket, take it to an Ohio Lottery regional office and fill out the paperwork to stake claim to the money.
"(Winners) can take the prize in an annuity, which is an immediate payment plus 29 annual payments, or they can take the cash option, which is just one payment," Frizzi-Babb said.
Taxes are withheld at 28 percent — 24 percent for federal and 4 percent for state taxes.
The annuity covers the jackpot, expected to be around $1 billion by Friday's drawing. The cash option is significantly lower at about $513.4 million.
"In Ohio, you have the option to remain anonymous," Frizzi-Babb said. "If you're claiming in a blind trust, you're going to need an attorney."
In past lotteries, not every winner has come forward right away.
Belden Village-area attorney Brian Layman recommends treating the ticket "like a piece of gold. It's like cash. If it gets destroyed or lost, if somebody else has it, it's theirs."
He recommends locking it up in a safe or a safe-deposit box and keeping quiet.
Forbes business and finance magazine also recommends keeping the win a big secret.
"If you win the lottery, your natural inclination may be to let everyone know that you hit the jackpot. Imagine how many long lost cousins and childhood friends suddenly may appear to celebrate your newfound wealth. However, your best move is to stay anonymous," according to an article Monday in the publication's online site. The article recommends getting professional advice and paying off existing debt.
"I've read horror stories on how people have burned through their lottery winnings. Just look online and see how quickly people without a plan run out of money," said Nathan Hershman, financial adviser for Edward Jones in Hartville. "Some people think about (buying) houses, cars, boats and things, but they don't think about the maintenance on all those things.
"There are a lot of variables and unintended consequences happen, and that goes back to your plan."
He recommended talking to an estate planning attorney, a financial adviser and a certified public accountant before accepting the winnings "as a stream of income or as a lump sum."
"I would suggest people do not rush into any decisions. It's really important to establish a plan and work that plan," Hershman said.
Layman recommends that plan include accepting the money into a blind trust, the only method by which the Ohio Lottery ticket can be kept anonymous.
Also, he said, "Surround yourself with a team of trusted advisers that you hopefully already know, as opposed to everybody in the world wanting to be your friend."
Paul Guerra, a registered investment adviser and managing director for Brookshire Wealth Management in Jackson Township, also suggests keeping the winning ticket a secret, at least until after talking to an attorney and a financial adviser.
"Obviously, it's going to change your life," he said. "With the amount of money that size, you can change a lot of lives. And there is not going to be a shortage of people that are going to tell you a lot of ways you can change their lives."
Guerra said if he won the lottery, he would talk to an attorney before talking to anyone else, including before talking to friends and some family members.
"I would make it a point that nobody would know about it, and then I would try to live my life the same way that I know right now," he said.
He would talk to an attorney to set up a blind trust and then a financial officer.
Then, he said, "I would talk to somebody who would help me determine how to have a positive impact. I would want my life to stay pretty similar, and then I would look at what can we do with this money that will really do the most good, how I can have a lasting impact.
"Somebody with that kind of money can do a lot of positive things and still live a comfortable lifestyle."
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