Mega Millions jackpot hits $977 million. Here’s what financial experts say to do if you score the winning ticket

A person plays lottery at a 7-eleven store as Mega Millions jackpot reaches $ 1 billion 580 million, in Redwood City, California, United States on August 8, 2023.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

‘Keep your mouth shut’

Hundreds of millions of dollars can be life-changing for a lottery winner, their family and other loved ones. But certified financial planner Kashif Ahmed, president of American Private Wealth in Bedford, Massachusetts, has simple advice for the lucky recipient: “Keep your mouth shut.”  

Some states allow you to claim the prize anonymously, but public disclosure laws vary by state, according to Mega Millions.

Keeping your winnings private could avoid requests from “dozens of new relatives and friends you never knew you had,” Ahmed said.

‘Don’t rush to claim the money’

Ahmed also recommends immediately hiring a team of experts, including a financial advisor, estate planning attorney and certified public accountant.

“Don’t rush to claim the money before you have assembled this team,” he said. You’ll have a specific window to collect the prize, but the deadline varies by state.

Consider ‘asset protection strategies’

Once you have a team of experts, you should work to safeguard your wealth with “asset protection strategies,” according to Ashton Lawrence, CFP and director at Mariner Wealth Advisors in Greenville, South Carolina.

“This may involve setting up trusts, establishing legal entities, private foundations, purchasing insurance coverage,” or other measures to shield assets from possible creditors, lawsuits and other risks, he said. Some of these may be beneficial to have in place even before claiming the prize.

Of course, the best strategy depends on the winner’s unique needs. 

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Mega Millions isn’t the only chance to win big. The Powerball jackpot has grown to an estimated $687 million without a big winner from Monday night’s drawing. The odds of scoring the grand prize for that game are roughly 1 in 292 million.

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