What to do when you win the lottery

Black afro american girl won money. Happy young woman holding dollar currency satisfied isolated over pink background with confetti.
All this could be yours - but would you know what to do with it? (Getty Images)

Ever dreamed of winning the lottery? That would be most of us. The only people who probably don't, in fact, are Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling, and those who have already won it.

For the rest, tonight could be life-changing. The EuroMillions jackpot has now reached £184m, making it the largest ever lottery prize available in the UK.

Nobody won Friday's £172m EuroMillions jackpot so the prize has rolled over into Tuesday's draw.

Watch: Lucky punter wins a £1 million scratchcard

Currently, the record holder is the anonymous winner of £170m, in October 2019, but that could change tonight.

So if it's you, are you prepared? Will you know whether to buy property, invest in Art, or snap up a stable of race-horses? And how do you avoid the curse of the lottery winner - first experienced by 'spend spend spend' Pools winner Viv Nicholson back in the '60s?

The first big winner on the Football Pools, Viv Nicholson, returns to the street where she lived before striking it rich. Her 38-shilling-a-week council house is behind her.  (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)
Viv Nicholson visiting her old council house after her big win. (Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images)

Viv, who worked in a sweets factory, won the equivalent of £3m back in 1961. She and husband Keith blew the lot on sports car, fur coats and jewellery, before Keith was killed in a car crash.

She was later declared bankrupt, and spoke of having felt she no longer had a connection to her old life, but didn't know how to cope with her fortune.

The tragic tale has served as a warning to lottery winners since, though some, such as 'Lotto Lout' Michael Carroll, ignored it.

After winning almost £10m in 2002, by 2006, the BBC reported that the former criminal was almost broke. He had blown it all on new homes, drugs, parties, jewellery and cars, and by 2010, had re-applied for his old job as a bin-man.

Lottery winner Michael Carrol arrives at Swaffham Magistrates in Norfolk for sentencing, after seemingly going to the wrong court.  Magistrates in Swaffham were told Michael Carroll and his solicitor had gone to the Magistrates Court at King's Lynn by mistake. Three weeks ago Carroll, 20, of Swaffham admitted having 19.7g of cocaine plus a number of other drugs offences.   (Photo by Andrew Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Carroll was in and out of prison, and blew his winnings in a few years. (Getty Images)

The success stories often opt to remain anonymous, to avoid unwelcome attention from thieves and begging letters - as well of the worry that family and friends will treat them differently once the news emerges.

Andy Carter, senior winners’ adviser at The National Lottery, says many winners 'never tell a single soul'.

“I’ve seen people be sick with excitement, I’ve seen people resign their job on the spot, I’ve seen people jumping up and down," he says.

Watch: Recording captures 'goosebumps-raising' moment mother discovers she's won £1m

"I’ve known husbands who haven’t told wives and wives who haven’t told husbands, I’ve been to homes where there’s literally a party going on already,” he told the PA news agency.

Mr Carter could be dealing with Britain’s biggest ever lottery winner if a single ticket-holder scoops the record jackpot in Tuesday’s EuroMillions draw.

Mr Carter or one of his colleagues would be among the first people to speak to the winner, whose details would be passed on to his team once they have phoned the National Lottery hotline.

“Our job is to call them back at this point and really there’s two parts to that phone call – one is talking them through the process, how it all works – but actually just as importantly, is checking in on them, doing a bit of a welfare check, because they’ve just had an enormous shock and our job is to make sure they’re OK,” Mr Carter said.

Captured for Camelot and The National Lottery at  on 24 Sep2019 by Dylan Nolte and Anthony Highet
Andy Carter, ready to offer his congratulations - and support. (PA)

“This job is similar to being a midwife really – you’re there for an amazing time in someone’s life.”

As well as completing the paperwork, checking the ticket and making sure they have the correct ID, Mr Carter is tasked with “helping someone go through a life-changing process”.

His team make sure the winner gets access to expert advice, from a lawyer to a financial adviser and even a life coach. They also put them in touch with other winners.

Read more: National Lottery hunts winner of £11m prize

Unlike lottery winners of the past, who were left with their 'good luck' to sink or swim, the life-altering nature of the win is now better understood, and the lottery teams offer full support.

“If you’ve won a large amount of money in the National Lottery, the best thing you can do is go and have a cup of tea with another winner, because they’re the people that will truly understand,” Mr Carter said.

“Specifically for large amounts of money, £184 million, it’s not just about making a difference to you or your family. If you want to, it can make a difference for generations and generations to come.”

The adviser said some winners like to set up big charitable trusts, while others gift money to friends and family.

Penrith, England - May 1, 2017:  An historic TVR Chimaera convertable sports car awaits the annual May Day parade through Penrith town centre in Cumbria, England.
TVR, Madame? Don't mind if I do. (Getty Images)

“Certainly lots of friends and family have benefitted and whilst the National Lottery has made over 6,000 millionaires in 27 years it’s been in existence, there have been many hundreds of other millionaires that have been made by winners giving away millions of pounds.”

While he cannot play the lottery himself and will “never know how it feels”, Mr Carter said he would spend his winnings by making sure his family were well looked after and travel around the world to watch his favourite sports.

If you strike lucky on the lottery, then, what's the best way to invest to make sure you don't go the way of Nicholson and Carroll?

Race for the prize of the Summer in Pyatigorsk,Caucasus.
Perhaps you'd care to invest in a racing stable? (Getty Images)

Ian Pickford, Partner & Head of Financial Planning at leading financial planning firm Mazars, has shared his tips on what lottery winners should consider if they come into substantial sums of money. He says:  

“£184 million is a sum few people will ever see land in their bank account. But, for the potential winners of the EuroMillions jackpot this is exactly what could happen. Such a life changing amount of money brings with it both opportunities and challenges.

"If managed correctly it can offer numerous generations a lifetime of financial security but it can also cause family rifts and money troubles down the line.

"That’s why as the dust starts to settle and the champagne is put down, it’s imperative that people seek the advice of experts and put a long lasting plan in place.”

Large luxury motor yacht under way out at sea
Will it be a yacht that tickles your fancy? (Getty Images)

Read more: 23 Lottery Winners Who Lost Millions

1 Don’t panic. You don’t need to act quickly because that money isn’t going anywhere unless you want it to. Take your time to make decisions and think through what you want to achieve with that money both now and in the future.

2 Start by spending a ‘little’ on something to enjoy your good fortune. Buy the car, take the holiday, stay in the hotel you’ve always wanted and enjoy the experience. Then you can start to put a financial plan in place.

3 When you are thinking about your financial plan consider what fits both your goals, but also your family’s. And add a buffer so you have the flexibility to meet changing circumstances as life throws its various curveballs at you.

4 Get the right expert advice. This one might feel obvious but there are lottery winners who haven’t accessed financial advice after winning millions. Overnight you have become an ultra-high net worth individual and this means you need team of experts to steer you through the complexities of having millions at your disposal.

Seek the support of trusted experts in financial planning and tax, you’ll need some legal advice down the line as well.

Modern house with a large beautiful terrace, barbecue, swimming pool, garage with electric car
Paying off the mortgage is a good idea. (Getty Images)

5 Prioritise paying off any debts. The mortgage is the biggest one. Not owing anyone money is a luxury that gives a real sense of financial freedom.

6 Protect your position. One of the first things I suggest to my clients who have come into a significant amount of money is to update their will. It’s just a first step before more complex legal advice is needed but it immediately protects your good fortune.

Additional reporting PA

Watch: Broken Christmas tree lights led to lottery win, woman says