8 questions answered if you think you've won a big lottery jackpot
Please note: These are general guidelines. For more specific information on claiming prizes, visit your state's lottery website:
Despite massive odds, individuals throughout the tri-state can and do win massive lottery jackpots. If you are one of the lucky few who think you've won, what should you do?
Here are some answers for someone holding that prized lottery ticket.
1. I'VE WON. NOW WHAT?
Lottery officials recommend winners take a deep breath, put their winning ticket in a safe spot and consult with a reputable financial planner before popping over to the lottery headquarters.
2. HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO CLAIM THE JACKPOT?
States have different rules, so depending on where you purchased the ticket, you have up to a year.
3. DO I GET MY MONEY INSTANTLY?
No, you can't just cash one of those oversized checks shown in all the winner photos. Payment speed also varies by state, but a week or two is common. Carole Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland lottery, said the requirement is seven to 10 days in that state.
4. CAN I KEEP MY NAME SECRET?
Winners can remain anonymous in 10 states - Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Delaware, Maryland, Georgia, Michigan, North Dakota, New Jersey and Ohio. Rules vary by state on identification used to collect prizes, so best to consult with a financial expert for complete details.
5. WHAT ABOUT TAXES?
Some states automatically deduct a portion of the winnings, so be sure to check what that cut will be.
Melissa Labant, a tax policy expert at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said winners should realize that while taxes are initially withheld when prizes are awarded, more money will likely be due at tax time as people suddenly are in up to a 37 percent tax bracket.
"That catches people off guard," she said. "You have to be prepared to write another check to the IRS in April."
6. WHAT ARE MY TAXES IF I DON'T LIVE IN THE STATE WHERE I BOUGHT THE TICKET?
This can get complicated, but for the most part winners pay taxes where they bought the ticket and then can get a credit on their taxes in their home state. The final tax bill can depend on if the state where you live taxes at a higher or lower rate than where you purchased the ticket. Rules vary by state, so this is a good topic for that financial planner.
7. Lump sum or annuities?
One of the first decisions you and your team will have to make is whether to take your winnings in one lump sum (usually around 60% of the total value) or have it paid out to you annually over a period of time. With careful planning, you may be able to grow your lump-sum winnings larger than the future annuity payments would have been, according to State Farm. However, if you need some structural help to keep from overspending too quickly, an annual payout is a solid, responsible way to make sure you'll continue to have income through most of your adult life.
8. EVERYTHING SEEMS IN ORDER. WHAT NOW?
Relax! Payouts take some time. Don't make any quick or impulsive decisions with money you think you've won. Also, don't quit your job just yet until you've got that money.
AP wire services contributed to this report.