More than a month has passed since a single ticket purchased at a Des Plaines gas station was announced as the winner of the $1.3 billion jackpot.

It could be several more months before the winner claims that prize, experts say — assuming, of course, that the valuable ticket hasn’t been lost or accidentally discarded.

“We could be in the dark on this for a long time about who it was,” said Christine Field, an attorney with the Hirsch Law Group, a Chicago-area firm that has handled several lottery winners’ payouts in the past. “People are wise to take their time before coming forward because they have to make a lot of decisions.”

One of the first decisions is whether to choose the lump sum payout or spread the payout over 30 years.

A lump sum payout amounts to $780.5 million, lottery officials said. Choosing the one-time payout reduces the risk that more money would be lost if the winner doesn’t live for all 30 years of the annualized payout.

“There are tax consequences to either one you want to choose,” Field explained.

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