It is the moment every Powerball player dreams of. You check your ticket and discover that you have matched the numbers drawn exactly. You let out a scream of delight, yell excitedly at a family member or random stranger and then spend the next hour rechecking your numbers. You’re definitely a winner, but what happens next? Here are the practical steps to getting hold of your money and the key decisions you will face along the way.
If you win a Powerball jackpot, it is important to know the length of time you have to claim a prize. This varies from state to state, ranging from 90 days in New Mexico to a year in several states. Visit the How to Claim page for a full list. Any Powerball Prize must be claimed in the state where you bought your ticket.
Make sure to keep your ticket safe and sign the back of it until you are ready to come forward. You may wish to see an attorney or financial group first, and should then contact the relevant state lottery and inform them that you have a winning ticket. The officials will ask you a series of simple questions about your ticket and check the information you provide against their own records, before setting up a meeting.
It is a good idea not to spread the news of your win until you have contacted the lottery, although some players do it very differently. Tennessee couple John and Lisa Robinson, who won a third of the record $1.58 billion Powerball jackpot in January 2016, went on the Today show before verifying their ticket with lottery officials. Marvin and Mae Acosta from California, winners in the same draw, took professional advice before coming forward six months later.
Once you have contacted the lottery, your winning ticket will need to be validated before you can receive your money. A meeting will be arranged at a suitable time, and you will be asked to provide identification as well as your ticket. The lottery officials will complete the relevant paperwork and you will be able to ask for expert advice.
Before the money can be transferred to your account, you need to decide how you would like to be paid. Powerball winners can decide whether to accept the full amount in annual installments over 30 years, or accept a one-off lump sum. Take a look at the Cash Vs Annuity page for more information. You have to pay tax regardless of which option you choose, and the level of withholding depends on where you bought your ticket. Check out the Powerball Taxes page.
There are only a few states in which you are allowed to remain anonymous - Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. In other states, it is a condition of playing that the identity of winners will be revealed, and it is customary for a press conference to be held. However, you are not required to speak at the press conference and some winners prefer to alter their appearance so they are not so easily recognized.
A number of states also allow winners to claim their money through a trust fund, where a ‘lottery lawyer’ would come forward on your behalf. Of course, some winners embrace the publicity as it can help with business opportunities or charitable causes, and take away the stress of having to live with such a big secret.
Once the news has sunk in, you have received your money and considered the issue of publicity, you can start to enjoy your winnings. You should consult a financial expert for advice but it is up to you how to use your money, now that you are richer than most celebrities in the world. The minimum Powerball jackpot is $40 million, the same amount as Beyoncé once reportedly splashed out a private jet for Jay-Z, so you could buy something extravagant, move into the house of your dreams or travel the world in style, whilst providing financial security for life for all your loves ones!