What to do when you win the lottery: Former winner weighs in

Life is about to change forever for someone in Pasco County. Monday was the first day the winner of the $450-million Mega Millions lottery could claim his or her prize.

The winning numbers, announced on Friday, were 28-30-39-59-70, with Mega Ball 10.  The only Mega Millions ticket to match all six winning numbers was sold at a 7-Eleven on Ridge Road in Port Richey.

According to legal experts, picking the lucky numbers isn't as simple as claiming your prize. Winning the lottery can come with a new set of legal issues.

"The first thing they need to do is get an attorney," said a New Port Richey woman who only wants to be identified as Donna.

Donna hit big in the Florida Lottery in 2001. Her win did not stop her from buying Mega Millions tickets over the weekend.

"I thought, I don't know, maybe lighting struck twice again," said Donna.

Tax attorney Nehemiah Jefferson said, in addition to signing their ticket and hiring legal and financial counselors before sharing their good fortune, winners should consider the taxes they will have to pay.

"Say, for example, the individual wins $400 million. Immediately, there's going to be $100 million withheld to cover the federal tax liability. Here in the state of Florida, there's no state income tax, so there will be no withholding from the state of Florida," explained Jefferson.

He added that the winner will likely exceed the top tax rate, so they can expect to pay more money in federal tax at the end of the year, in addition to the upfront taxes on their winnings.

The Mega Millions winner will have two options to claim their money. He or she can choose to receive $281 million upfront or annual payments of about $15 million.

If the winner wants to take the cash option, that person must claim their prize in Tallahassee within 60 days after the drawing.

Attorney Jefferson said even after collecting their prize, winners should consult with financial advisers before making any business decisions with their money.

"Be aware of scams. There are going to be individuals that are going to be offering any number of different opportunities or ways in which he or she could spend their newfound wealth," warned Jefferson.

It's unclear who is representing this Mega Millions winner, but a representative with New Port Richey’s Blenner Law Group, which claims to have represented a Florida lottery winner in the past, said they could not comment on the matter due to a "conflict of interest."