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5 things the Powerball, Mega Millions winners need to do

Sarah O'Brien

It's not every day you become a multimillionaire. But for two lucky winners this weekend, that unlikely event just became a reality.

A single winner in New Hampshire nabbed the $570 million Powerball jackpot Saturday, a day after a lone winner in Florida scored the $450 million Mega Millions jackpot.

The $570 million Powerball ranks as the fifth largest in the game's history, and the seventh largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history. The $450 million Mega Millions jackpot ranks as the fourth largest in the game's history.

Of course, that's before taxes . And choices the winners make now could influence how much he or she walks away with, as well as how far those winnings go.

Here are a few things should top the winners' to-do list:

1. Keep the ticket close

Make sure to sign the winning ticket and make several copies. If you are somehow separated from the ticket, your signature should help ensure you still get the prize. To avoid that separation in the first place, put the original in a protected place, like a safe deposit box.

2. Chill

Typically, lottery winners have three months to present their ticket. Before you decide to prove you've won, however, it's best to first enlist the help of a team of pros: An attorney (this should be your first call), a financial planner and an accountant.

It's not uncommon for winners to face legal claims — sometimes from coworkers who either went in on a ticket or declined to, but now want a piece of the action.

3. Remain anonymous if possible

It's best not to announce to the world that you've won. An attorney can help create a legal entity — i.e., a revocable trust or a family limited partnership — that protects your identity . If you can't avoid publicity (some states require publishing your identity), consider changing your phone number, or living somewhere else temporarily. That will help avoid media attention and sudden money requests from long-lost friends or relatives you never knew you had.

4. Choose a lump sum or annual payments

Figure out whether to take the lump sum or 30 allotments over 29 years. This decision is often made based on your tax situation. Either way, this weekend's prizes are large enough to put you in the highest tax bracket (37 percent for 2018, down from 39.6 percent in 2017). This is when relying on the advice of pros (and not family) makes sense.

5. Take a deep breath

Before spending a dime, think about what this sudden wealth means: Not only financially, but emotionally.

Before giving in to the temptation to fill your driveway with multiple Teslas, give yourself time to process the magnitude of your win. This is often when winners begin to think about their legacy and what societal contributions they want to make. Some even set up their own charitable organizations.

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