Personal Finance

A group of 11 co-workers are the winners of a $543 million Mega Millions jackpot. Here's what to do if you get lucky

Key Points
  • The winners have the option of taking a lump sum of $320.5 million or taking the full amount spread out over 30 years.
  • Hitting the jackpot as part of a group can add complications to the win. Make sure the organizer documents the whole affair.

A group of 11 co-workers in California were the winners of last month's $543 Mega Millions jackpot, the California Lottery announced Friday.

Ranging in age from 21 to 60, the players had each pitched in $2 in a spur-of-the-moment office pool the day before the July 24 drawing. One of the workers, Ronald Reyes, claimed the prize on behalf of the group. The other winners were not identified, nor was the company where they work.

They all apparently plan to keep working.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images staff

"We want to keep our jobs," Reyes said in a statement released by the California Lottery. "We love that company. We love what we've built there. We have a good time and want to stay together."

The group has the option of taking the full amount over 30 years, or taking the lump-sum option of $320.5 million.

Make sure it's done right

While the win might inspire you to join a lottery pool at your own workplace, experts say to make sure you proceed with caution.

"If you go in on an office pool, make sure it's done right," said Jason Kurland, a partner at Rivkin Radler, a law firm in Uniondale, New York.

"People don't treat it like a transaction [potentially] worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but that's essentially what it is," said Kurland, who specializes in helping lottery winners.

This is what you do if you win the lottery

One challenge is figuring out exactly how to split the winnings. There are tax considerations, and some states have limits on how many checks they will cut. In that case, winners would end up turning to a more complex solution, such as forming a trust.

"Say there are 15 people who win a lot of money. Getting 15 people to agree on anything is difficult," Kurland said. "And then if they each get their own attorney, you've got 15 attorneys who are supposed to agree."

If you've already gone in on tickets or want to despite the potential pitfalls, at least make sure the pool's coordinator documents the whole affair.

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"The person should give a copy of the tickets and a list of [participants] to everyone who's in the pool," Kurland said. This protects the people in the pool and the organizer.

"That way, if the person who's in charge also bought a ticket on their own and it ends up winning, there's a way to prove it wasn't part of the pool," Kurland said.

The simpler thing is to just buy tickets on your own.

The odds of nabbing the Mega Millions jackpot are about 1 in 259 million for a single ticket. Buying more than one — whether through an office pool or on your own — doesn't increase your chances by much.

"You're still talking about huge odds," Kurland said.