Thursday, November 15, 2018

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It’s starting to look like deja vu all over again.

And while it’s roughly half the size of this week’s winning Mega Millions jackpot, the amount is nothing to sneeze at. Even after paying taxes, the winner’s take would make them one of the wealthier people in the country.

Top 10 lottery jackpots

Date won
Winner locations
1$1.586 billionJan. 13, 2016PowerballCA-FL-TN
2$1.54 billionOct. 23, 2018Mega MillionsSC
3$758.7 millionAug. 23, 2017PowerballMA
4$687.8 millionOct. 27, 2018PowerballIA-NY
5$656 millionMar. 30, 2012Mega MillionsKS-IL-MD
6$648 millionDec. 17, 2013Mega MillionsCA-GA
7$590.5 million18-May-13PowerballFL
8$587.5 millionNov. 28, 2012PowerballAZ-MO
9$564.1 millionFeb. 11, 2015PowerballNC-PR-TX
10$559.7 millionJan. 6, 2018PowerballNH

The lump sum option is $428.6 million. After applying the top federal tax rate of 37 percent, that would leave $270 million before state taxes of up to 8.82 percent, depending on where you live. Even assuming that top state rate (and no additional local taxes), the winner would be left with $232.2 million.

Of course, you could choose to take your winnings spread out over three decades and pay taxes on it along the way.

As for the $1.537 billion Mega Millions jackpot winner: The ticket was purchased at a convenience store in Simpsonville, South Carolina, a town of 22,000 near Greenville. But because the Palmetto State allows lottery winners to claim their prize anonymously, the world may never find out who won.

The next Powerball winner might not be so lucky. Only a handful of states allow you to claim lottery wins anonymously. In some states, however, you might be able to collect your windfall via a trust or other legal entity to keep your name out of the public eye.

If you must come forward, here are some expert tips for trying to protect your privacy if you manage to beat the odds. The chance of winning the Powerball jackpot is 1 in 292 million.

Get off the Internet

If you can’t remain anonymous when you collect your winnings, shut down your social media accounts in advance, said Jason Kurland, a partner at Rivkin Radler, a law firm in Uniondale, New York.

“The media will try to find as many pictures of a winner as possible, and social media is the first place to look,” Kurland said. “You also want to make sure there’s as little personal information out there like your phone number or address.”

While any determined snooper or scammer could probably track that information down, you don’t want to make it easy for them. If you have a landline phone, make sure it’s unlisted before you head to lottery headquarters.

Plan an escape

Kurland said he advises his big jackpot winners to skip town immediately after claiming their prize.

“Just being out of town for a few days can help,” Kurland said. “In this 24-hour news cycle, the interest in a winner will hopefully disappear after a few days. If you can avoid being around for a week, you might be able to escape the initial exposure.”

Consider spending effects

Even in states that let you collect your winnings anonymously, lottery officials might be legally permitted to reveal the town where you live.

“Everyone there will be looking around to see who is spending more, who quit their job, who is taking big vacations,” Kurland said. “Winners should enjoy their new-found wealth, but if anonymity is a main concern, it can be a difficult balance to strike.”

More from Personal Finance:
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