The first 7 things to do if you win the $375M Powerball jackpot: Advisor

  • The lump-sum cash payout option on the June 7 jackpot will be at least $235.4 million.
  • On Feb. 22, the seventh-largest Powerball prize ever was claimed in Indiana for $435.3 million.
  • Winners' first move should be to consult a financial advisor, accountant or other expert.

Are you feeling lucky?

Did you buy a Powerball ticket for tomorrow's drawing, which will pay out, at a minimum, a $375 million jackpot? Join the club: Thousands upon thousands will fork over at least $2 apiece for a ticket in the 44 states — along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — participating in the lottery.

Like almost anyone else, if you win, you will probably visit a real estate agent to purchase that new home and then call a travel agent to book a luxurious vacation. You might also decide to pay a visit to a dealership to buy a fancy car.

A woman holds a ticket purchased for Wednesday's estimated Powerball lottery jackpot of $450 million in Los Angeles, February 11, 2015.
Jonathan Alcorn | Reuters
A woman holds a ticket purchased for Wednesday's estimated Powerball lottery jackpot of $450 million in Los Angeles, February 11, 2015.

While each of these suddenly affordable opportunities would tempt a newly minted mega-millionaire, none would be the best initial course of action.

Just look at the history of lottery winners. Many ended up in debt — or worse, went broke because they mismanaged their newfound riches.

Easy money can do that to people. It makes them blind to the proper steps to take to ensure those funds last a lifetime — and, for their loved ones' sake, beyond. Rather than being prudent, many of the suddenly super-rich feel obligated to make that big purchase or, for some reason, agree to provide financial support for a third cousin of their step-brother-in-law.

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Instead of visiting that car dealer or travel agent, the first thing anyone lucky enough to win a lottery jackpot should do is find a trusted, qualified financial planner.

Financial planners come in all shapes and sizes, with different credentials, levels of experience, knowledge bases, legal requirements and compensation models. Anyone seeking a planner needs to be armed with the correct questions to ensure that the professional chosen is working in your interest and capable of addressing all your specific financial needs.

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Now that you understand that the first step in managing your windfall is a visit with a financial planner, what are some of the other things you need to do to ensure the longevity of your lottery winnings? Here are six additional steps I would recommend for a lottery winner or anyone else coming into sudden wealth.

  1. With the help of a financial planner, take stock of your values. How do you want to live your life? For some, suddenly having money doesn't make them want to change much of anything. Others aspire to new things and experiences. What's important is to find what's important to you — and not just materially.
  2. With a certified public accountant, address what will be pressing income-tax issues. Take advantage of available tax opportunities, which may include starting a business (something some people aspire to when they hit it big).
  3. Contact an attorney to establish appropriate trust vehicles to assure that assets are protected from estate taxes.
  4. As part of an estate plan that you craft with an attorney, think about family members or organizations you want to benefit now or in the future. Establish target plans for how, and how much, you want to share your wealth.
  5. In the case of charities you'd like to benefit, charitable lead or charitable remainder trusts may be considered to create tax benefits today while also benefiting the organization. A charitable lead trust donates a portion of the trust's income to charities today, leaving the remainder to your specific beneficiaries. A charitable remainder trust provides you income throughout your lifetime, leaving the remainder to a charity upon your death.
  6. In collaboration with your financial planner, align your investment portfolio with your goals and objectives. With your ability to create an ongoing stream of income benefits to yourself and others, you'll want to assure that you have a diversified portfolio that is well-managed, with strict accountability to the things that matter to you. Always keep in mind your ability to truly make a difference in the world by being a good steward of your own resources.

It all sounds like a great deal of work, and it is. That's why you need a financial professional. Lean on your planner to guide you in your financial decisions. Doing so will free you up — and allow you to take that fabulous vacation with peace of mind.

Editor's note: This is an updated, edited version of an article that originally ran on Oct. 1, 2015.

— By Janet Stanzak, principal and owner of Financial Empowerment