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Q&A: Unclaimed Lotto prize, death benefits

Unclaimed Lotto tickets

A couple of weeks ago, a winning lottery ticket for $16 million went unclaimed in Tampa. How often does that happen?

The ticket you're referring to was one of three winning tickets sold for the $50 million, May 25, 2013, Powerball drawing. It was purchased in Carrollwood and never redeemed. The other two, sold in Delaware and Louisiana, were turned in and the prizes claimed.

By law, winning tickets sold from a terminal (Lotto, Mega Millions, Powerball, Meg Money, Fantasy 5, Play 4 and Cash 3) must be claimed within 180 days of the drawing.

If they aren't, according to the Florida Lottery website: "Florida law requires that 80 percent of unclaimed prize funds from expired tickets be transferred directly to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. The remaining 20 percent is returned to the prize pool from which future prizes are awarded or used for special prize promotions.

"Should a Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot ticket not be claimed within the 180 days of the applicable draw date, the funds to pay the unclaimed jackpot will be returned to the lottery members in their proportion of sales for the jackpot rollover series."

The latest unclaimed Powerball ticket was just the third in the 20-plus years of that lottery.

But there have been more than 20 winning Florida Lotto tickets that have gone unclaimed since the first drawing on May 7, 1988.

The largest was for $50 million from the March 12, 2003, drawing. That ticket was sold in North Bay Village, in Dade County.

There have been three unclaimed Lotto prizes in which the winning ticket was sold in the Tampa Bay area:

• Tampa, Jan. 13, 1990, jackpot $6.4 million.

• St. Petersburg, Feb 7, 1998, $6.3 million.

• St. Petersburg, Feb. 14, 2004, $15 million.

Early death, benefits

When people die after they've received only a few months or years of their Social Security retirement benefits, which they have paid into their entire lives, what happens to the money that would have otherwise been paid them if they had lived much longer?

Social Security does not place Social Security taxes paid on a worker's earnings in an individual account. The program is a social insurance program, a "pay-as-you-go system in which today's workers pay for today's beneficiaries," according to a Social Security spokeswoman.

"All Social Security taxes go into the Social Security Trust Funds, which are used to pay current Social Security beneficiaries," she said. If benefits were never paid on a worker's record, the taxes paid would simply remain part of the funds. However, the worker's family may be eligible to receive benefits.

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email answers@tampabay.com.

Q&A: Unclaimed Lotto prize, death benefits 11/26/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 1:42pm]

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