How does one actually claim a large lottery win?

With the billion dollar Powerball drawing coming up, I figured that I should cover all my bases in case I win and finally get to build that solid gold house I’ve always wanted. It makes me nervous that I could be holding a slip of paper that’s worth a billion dollars, so what should one do to safely claim something like this? Obviously, if the ticket is sold, they already know it through their computers, but I’m guessing its more than simply showing up at your local 7-11 and asking for a billion dollars in one’s.

First, you have to have the paper right? So if the ticket you own is the real deal, what’s the first thing you should do? Take pictures and video of it, and email it to yourself in case you misplace it?

I’m assuming you don’t next mail this to the lottery people, what if it gets lost in the mail? For something of that amount, would it be safer if I simply flew up to the Powerball offices and hand-deliver it so they can verify the ticket? And it goes without saying that you don’t show this to anyone if they want to look at it, lest they try to run off with it and you have to murder them, right?

I’ve seen news reports of people winning and getting that big novelty check, I’m guessing that’s a setup when they verify you and do a little news story right? And should there be news cameras around, would it be smart to get them to film you holding the ticket so that even if it gets stolen or lost, you at least have proof of it?

Has anyone ever won an amount that is more than the store can pay and had to go through this? What are the steps? And how soon do you start getting checks and I can start buying gold?

Small prizes can be claimed at the liquor store or gas station or wherever you bought the ticket, but awards over a certain amount are paid directly by the lotto people. After all, Bernie’s Booze Hut (State minimum prices!!!) can’t be expected to float a multi-million dollar prize until the state lotto comission reimburses him.

Me, I would call the Powerball offices and see if I could stay anonymous. Otherwise, everybody for hundreds of miles around is going to show up at my door to beg for money.

In Ontario, at least, for prizes over a certain amount ($50 000?), you have to physically take the ticket and yourself to the prize office in Toronto and claim it in person. I suspect there’s a similar requirement for the Powerball.

I have, right in front of me, an actual, genuine, losing Powerball ticket. The back says, “Any retailer may pay a prize of $600 or less. Send your signed ticket of more than $600 with a signed claim form to: [address] or redeem at any Lottery office.” So there you have it.

As to what best practices are for a very large prize, I don’t know. I assume I’d sign it right away, photograph it, store the photos somewhere secure, and talk to an attorney.

Needless to say I was reading up on this very topic. :slight_smile:
Per my local lottery commission; it can take up to two weeks for all the other states to transfer their Powerball funds to the winning state. So if you win do not rush out the next day to collect. Also I believe there is some waiting period while they validate the ticket. But after that have a bank account ready to accept the electronic transfer of the funds.

In Massachusetts, prizes up to $600 can be claimed at any lottery seller. Prizes $601-$49999, you have to go to a regional office, of which there are 6 in the state. $50k and above, you’ve got to go the main lottery office in Braintree.

And the most important thing to do immediately is sign the ticket. There’s a space on the back for it. Until you sign it, it’s a bearer instrument, so if you misplace it and someone else finds it, it sucks for you.

According to the Powerball website, only five states (DE, KS, MD, ND, OH) allow a jackpot to be claimed anonymously. The others require that the winner’s name and city of residence be made public.

I know that your question is more about the mechanics of prize claim but I thought I’d share this with you.
My second hand info for what it’s worth.

My daughter’s friend’s grandfather held a winning ticket worth +millions. He did the following as I recall -

Signed the back of his ticket. Called his children (adults) and told them to come to his house. As a group they decided to take photos of the ticket and each adult had a copy. They held the ticket for a small amount of time in a home safe. Transferred it later to a bank safe deposit box. They DID NOT go public nor notify the Powerball people yet.

Each adult child and the grandfather went to separate financial advisers and sought advice. They met again to compare notes on the advice.
After settling on an financial strategy they continued to not release any information. The grandchildren were not told.
This went on for over a month while they did some things like launch a business, prepare for home sales, etc.
They did buy new cars in advance and in fact the friends mom confided to my wife on how she was able to buy the car.
They announced the winning ticket as a family at a dinner they catered. It was then at the dinner that the grandchildren and their friends (my daughter was one) got the news.

As I recall it was actually a few months before they went public and notified the press and the Powerball people via that dinner. This happened in late December so I think the end of the fiscal year had some bearing on their timing. I don’t know if they would have waited longer (I believe that you have 1 year in which you must claim a prize)
The resulting payout shared by father and 3 adults gave them all enough to live comfortably but not extravagantly.

I know that if I’m ever in a windfall situation like theirs I’m going to use their actions as a strategy model.

There’s also the gotcha that some states consider lottery winnings communal property, plus the possibility that someone is collecting for someone else, or any other shennaigans. So they have to verify that you are not hiding winnings from a wife during divorce proceedings, etc.

(Old joke:
“Honey, pack your bags! I won the lottery!”
“Where are we going?”
“I’m not going anywhere. Bye!” )

There was a case in California where the ex-husband found out his wife had won just before she dumped him, because some finacial advice firm sent him a junk mail (to wife’s last address) advising them the firm could help them decide how to manage their winnings. She lost it all, since she hid the money from the divorce proceedings.

There was a classic case in France where someone won a lottery. The bank alerted authorities when the winner withdrew several tens of millions of Euros and gave it to someone else. The authorities investigated, found the new recipient had owned a small store in France and closed it not long after the jackpot was won. (retailers were ineligible for jackpots) There was someone in that neighbourhood still playing those winning numbers every week and had been since well before they won. So they charge the original “winners” and knock on someone’s door, inform him he’s been a multimillionaire for months, his numbers won the lottery but the store owner pulled a switcheroo on his ticket.

This points to another problem. A statistical investigation of lottery vendors in Ontario several years ago found that the number of vendors who won jackpots was statistically impossible. Vendors switching winning tickets was a common swindle. The new rules say you must sign the ticket before the vendor is allowed to handle it (for scanning). the terminals also play “winner” sounds when a winning ticket is scanned.

I have read reports about lottery winners who did just that: They hired a lawyer and a financial advisor before they contacted the lottery. If I won a billion dollars, I would probably also hire a team of personal bodyguards. And another team of bodyguard to keep an watchful eye over the other bodyguards.

A very close friend of mine won 350K in the Supercash lottery, and the step father of another good friend won several million in the old Mega Bucks lottery. In both cases they had to go directly to the lottery office. The gaming commission did background checks on them and their spouses to assure they didn’t owe any back taxes, child support payments, fines, etc…

They both also received a large list of financial planners and were strongly encouraged to set up their fiances before accepting the payout.

I know one of them photocopied the ticket several times and had photographs of himself holding the ticket taken.

The smart answer is that you immediately go to a law company, form a new LLC, sign the ticket over to the LLC and then get the LLC to claim the prize through a lawyer. This way you can be anonymous in any state.

How does this help? Without the physical ticket, aren’t you still ruined anyway?

There might be some - admittedly somewhat contrived - scenarios under which those pictures could prove something, for instance: somebody steals the ticket from you and then claims he bought it.

Personally, I’ve already thought the problem through: I would keep the ticket close to my body in a waterproof neck pouch day and night.

Most of the states don’t allow you to claim the prize anonymously. They want to hold a press release, so you can be photographed and identified by the media. In part, this is to convince the public that the game isn’t rigged and it’s really possible for some schmuck to win the jackpot.

Can you keep the LLC owner’s name secret? Might depend on the state too.

Also , a lot of people don’t check their numbers once they hear someone else won. Which means people could miss out on a $1 mil 2nd place prize.

Seems to me that the people talking about how they’d call a lawyer, take photos, form shadow companies, etc. are being overly paranoid.

I’d just drive down to the lottery commission building in the morning and turn in the ticket right away

That’s fine if you win a small amount. But if you actually won this jackpot, it would be wise to do some advance planning (with a lawyer, an accountant and a security pro) before claiming it.

So I live in Nevada (which does not participate). If I buy a ticket in California, and redeem it in Kansas, can I remain anonymous?

I’m fairly certain that you can only redeem the ticket in the state in which it’s issued.