HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Powerball’s jackpot continues to rise into Scrooge McDuck levels. As of Monday evening, the latest figure was $1.4 billion with an $867 million cash option. Even though the odds remain at one in 292 million, there’s still the off-chance that your ticket could hit the big one.
After the shock, what does one do with a fortune beyond most Americans’ dreams?
Vance Antonacci is an estate attorney with McNees, Wallace, and Nurick, LLC. He has represented millionaire lottery winners in the past. He says there are things a Powerball winner should do to protect themselves and their millions.
“Catch your breath,” he said. “Don’t even start thinking about what you’d do with the money. You want to give it a few days to sink in.”
Antonacci said staying quiet might be the hardest thing for some people, but he believes keeping mum will prove beneficial in the long run.
“Get a team of professionals and advisors around you that can help you make the right decisions,” he said.
Instead of Googling financial planner, it could be best to ask for referrals from a friend without letting it slip that you’re sitting on a big pile of cash.
Pennsylvania does not have a state lottery tax, but federal taxes could be upwards of 40 percent. Forbes said a sole jackpot winner in Pennsylvania would leave nearly $400 million on the table by taking the cash option, but Antonacci says the 30-year annuity could have a greater loss following a winner’s death, with hefty inheritance taxes for loved ones. Writing a will is also good advice before claiming the cash.
“You’re giving away x amount with the present value of the annuity payment,” he said.
Be honest with yourself. Lottery statistics show that 44 percent of large jackpot lottery winners lose their fortune within the first five years. Antonacci said the annuity would protect you from yourself.
“Money, if you’re happy, it’ll make you happier,” he said. “If you’re unhappy, it’ll make it worse.”
Even fantasizing could get you in legal trouble. Saying you will split the windfall with someone could be a binding contract in some cases. Even though the argument may be hard to prove in court, Antonacci said fighting it alone would be costly.
“Just saying I am going to give you something when you win probably is not enforceable,” he said, “but certainly that’s why lawyers get paid to fight. Like I say, when you’re litigating only lawyers win. So, I would avoid a verbal promise of any nature to anyone.”
Above all else, sign the back of the winning ticket. Antonacci said without doing that, anyone could claim your prize. Sign it and put it in a locked safe or a safe-deposit box at your bank.
The next Powerball drawing is Wednesday night.