The $1.28 Billion Mega Millions Jackpot and You

In Texas, a winner of $1 million or more can remain anonymous. In Arizona, winners of $100,000 or more can choose anonymity, but their city and county of residence are not confidential. In California, the names of winners are part of the public record. Some states, like Michigan, do not allow a trust for multistate lotteries such as Mega Millions or Powerball.

Not all lottery winners are required to appear at a news conference with a broad grin, holding a giant fake check. Under its open records law, Wisconsin’s lottery releases the name and city of the winner on request. Any other information, including news media interviews, is up to the winner.

So you’ve just won the second-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history. Now what?

You don’t need our advice about yachts, private islands and luxury cars, but experts say a winner should get help from a reputable lawyer, financial adviser or accountant. Do your research first.

Tax advice is key. Friday’s winner could take $747.2 million in a lump sum or choose to take the $1.28 billion payable in annual installments over 30 years. The federal government will take 24 percent off the top, and you may also owe state taxes. Either choice will catapult you into the top federal income tax bracket, currently 37 percent and scheduled to rise in the future, as Kiplinger noted in this guide for lottery dreamers.

Before hiring a fiduciary or other financial advisers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau suggests checking the advisers’ backgrounds by asking for references, checking the status of their licenses, and finding information about their professional histories. Those resources are online.

The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers to find a lawyer who has specialized in an area that is relevant to their needs, which could involve tax, trusts or estates in the case of lottery winners, and getting recommendations from family, friends, co-workers or community groups. It advises checking with state and local bar associations before retaining a lawyer.

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