AP graphic of the Powerball logo
(USA Today) -- The winning Powerball numbers, worth $579.9 million, are: 5, 16, 22, 23, 29, with a Powerball of 6.
Those numbers were drawn at 11 p.m. Wednesday with the whole nation watching the huge jackpot, which by drawing time had swelled to $579.9 million.
Buildup to the record $550-million Powerball jackpot Wednesday was intense, as lottery hopefuls snatched up tickets and mapped out what they'll do with the winnings. Equally intense have been questions on how and when to claim the prize, said Kelly Spell, a spokeswoman with the Louisiana Lottery, which operates the state's Powerball drawings.
"People are excited," said Spell, fielding calls Wednesday at the Baton Rouge office. "A lot of them want to know what to do with that winning ticket."
After regaining your breath and calling a few friends with the good news, here are the top five things to do if you win:
• 1. Seek legal help. Winners have 180 days from the date of the drawing to claim their prize. Lottery officials recommend using that time to find a good lawyer and accountant to help navigate all the federal, state and other possible tax obligations attached to the winnings. Spell said that the federal government takes one-fourth of the total winnings. Louisiana takes 5%.
• 2. Sign and verify. If you haven't already, sign the back of the ticket immediately, Spell said: "Single most important thing you can do." It's "the best way we can determine who owns it." Winning tickets can then be verified at local retailers or at any state lottery office, she said.
• 3. Claim your prize. Large winnings such as the Powerball jackpot need to be claimed in person at the headquarters of the state lottery body that runs Powerball. But don't rush in: The jackpot money isn't available until 15 calendar days after drawing, Spell said.
• 4. Decide: Do you want annual payments or a lump sum? One of the biggest decisions ticketholders will make is whether to take the jackpot as a lump sum (minus taxes) or in annual payments over 30 years. Cash value for a $550-million jackpot is actually $360.2 million, Spell said. After taxes, a single winner would walk away with a check totaling approximately $252 million. Annual payouts increase about 4% each year until the entire $550 million is paid, she said. Taxes are still owed on the annual payments.
• 5. Expect attention. Large winnings usually come with a crush of media attention, Spell said. Louisiana Lottery doesn't act as the winning ticketholders' press agent but could help them manage the intense publicity with organized news conferences and news releases. Some past winners have reveled in media interviews. Others sent their lawyers, she said. "You never know how your life will change," Spell says. "It's exciting."
By Rick Jervis, USA Today