Jan 5, 2018, 8:49 am
Includes video report
One lucky winner could be hours away from taking home one of the largest jackpots in Mega Millions or Powerball history.
In more than two months without a winner, both the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots have rolled over to an estimated combined total of nearly $1 billion.
The Mega Millions jackpot stands at $445 million, with a $277 million lump-sum option. The Powerball jackpot has reached $550 million, which is a $347.9 million lump-sum payout.
If anyone hits both jackpots the haul would be a whopping $995 million, the second-biggest payout in lotto history.
The best thing a winner can do is stay anonymous, financial adviser and CPA Kurt Panouses, who helped a Florida couple that won a portion of the largest jackpot ever, said.
"The initial concern of the ticket is probably the most important part of the planning aspect," Panouses said. "What the individual should do is protect the ticket, keep it safe, put it in a safe place, but do not sign the back of the ticket."
"Whoever signs the back of the ticket is the individual that has to claim the ticket and the proceeds," Panouses explained.
Panouses also suggested making a copy of the ticket and getting a tax professional and an attorney to help manage the funds and offer investment advice.
"The tax rate is the highest rate it's been at. In 2018 it's going to be 2.6 percent lower than in 2017. Again, if you're talking about $300 million, that could be seven to eight million dollars of finances that someone could actually have in their pocket by claiming it in 2018," he said of the payout under the new tax law.
A group of 20 co-workers from the North American Stamping Group who won a $420.9 million Powerball jackpot in 2016 split the winnings.
One of the women from the group has used the money to pay it forward to people in need, including her own family, she said.
"To see my family in better shape, it's a blessing," Amy O'Neal said.
If there is a winner, he or she could choose an annuity to receive 30 payments over 29 years or take a lump sum.
Experts suggest that players use the full range of numbers available and not limit their chances by playing just numbers such as birthdays because months have no more than 31 days and Powerball numbers go up to 69.
The biggest Powerball jackpot on record was a $1.586 billion prize in January 2016. People in California, Florida and Tennessee split the prize.
The largest Mega Millions jackpot in history was $656 million. Three winners from Kansas, Illinois and Maryland shared that record prize in March 2012.
Powerball is played in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mega Millions is played in all the same jurisdictions except Puerto Rico.
The next Mega Millions drawing is tonight at 11 p.m. ET. The next Powerball drawing is Saturday at 10:59 p.m. ET.
VIDEO: Watch the report
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