Mega Millions tickets are displayed at a Holiday gas station Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in Minneapolis. The Mega Millions prize has grown again to an estimated $1.35 billion after there was no winner of the lottery's latest giant jackpot. Credit: Abbie Parr / AP

The still-unknown holder of the $1.35 billion Mega Millions lottery ticket at Hometown Gas and Grill in Lebanon overcame two huge hurdles by winning on Friday the 13th with odds of one in 302.6 million.

But the biggest hurdles may be yet to come. Winners usually feel jubilation quickly followed by anxiety and fear about how their lives and relationships might change. The best thing initially is to keep anonymous until you sort out your strategy.

That is what Robert Pagliarini, a financial analyst at Pacifica Wealth Advisors in Orange County, California, and attorney Bill Shaheen of Shaheen & Gordon in Maine and New Hampshire, told the Bangor Daily News when asked for advice for the ticket holder and others like them.

Both have worked with lottery winners and others becoming wealthy overnight. Their responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.

What is the first thing the winner should do?

Pagliarini: You need to protect the ticket. The lottery is a “bearer instrument,” meaning whoever has the ticket is the owner. This tiny piece of paper the size of a Post-it Note is worth over $1 billion. Take a photo of the ticket, a selfie of you with the ticket and a video of you with the ticket.

Shaheen: I’d recommend putting it into a safety deposit box.

Should you sign the ticket?

Pagliarini: The advice used to be to sign the back of the ticket to prove it’s yours. But if you want to try to remain anonymous, don’t sign the back of the ticket, because you might want to create an LLC or trust that owns the actual ticket so you can shield your identity.

Should you let people know that you have the ticket?

Pagliarini: Only tell one trusted confidant. Otherwise you might put the ticket and yourself at risk. You need to immediately build your team, because this is a life-changing situation.

Shaheen: Don’t tell anyone. Once you let the cat out of the bag, you can’t go back and you can get harassed. It’s a tremendous responsibility when you win that much money. You should set up a trust, and the trustee can handle claiming the ticket for you.

What kind of team do you need?

Pagliarini: An attorney, a CPA and a financial expert. Take time to interview them, because it can be difficult to manage sudden wealth. Remember, you are not giving them access to your money. You are paying them for advice.

Ask if they are a fiduciary who has a responsibility to protect your interests and if they have a CPA. You can visit the website BrokerCheck by FINRA to check on a financial firm or an advisor. And make sure your assets are separate from your advisor so you get statements directly from an investment firm such as Charles Schwab.

Shaheen: It takes almost a year to get adjusted to sudden wealth. A lot of decisions need to be made. Make sure everyone who gets money signs a nondisclosure agreement so you can have anonymity.

Is it better to take the lump sum or an annuity to stretch the money over 29 years?

Pagliarini: I prefer an annuity for a lot of people. It allows you to make a mistake with your money. For the first few years if you made some bad decisions or gave it too freely to people that’s okay. You get to hit the reset button, because that next payment is gonna come. If you take the lump sum and mess that up, there isn’t another payment.

Shaheen: You also have to be aware of the taxes.

How quickly do winners get the money?

Pagliarini: Very quickly.

Shaheen: It can take a week or more to transfer all the money because it may have to be done in $50 million tranches and sent to a large bank that can insure it. Or you can divide the money among different banks.

What is the “lottery curse”?

Pagliarini: Lives can be turned upside down by money. Oftentimes relationships suffer. People can end up financially worse off. Sometimes the person who won changes. Sometimes it’s the people around them. Some people end up regretting winning.

Shaheen: Life is so much easier when nobody knows, even family members.

So how should a big winner deal with the windfall?

Pagliarini: It’s one thing to daydream, but view it as something that will not radically change your life. I ask people what they don’t want to change about their life, and they usually come up with a long list.