Four Ways to Minimize Estate Taxes

4 Ways to Minimize Estate TaxesLeaving behind a legacy is important; when transferring assets after your death, estate tax liability on your assets can be quite burdensome on your heirs. Let’s take a look at four ways you can minimize estate taxes on size-able estates while maximizing your legacy to your heirs.

1. Lifetime gifts to family. Under the law, you have the right to gift up to $12,000 per year per person without incurring a gift tax. The gift tax exclusion can also be utilized by your spouse. Therefore, you and your spouse (combined) can gift up to $24,000.00 per year to an individual without incurring a gift tax. So, you could significantly reduce your estate value (and your estate tax liability) over the course of years before you die. Planning is essential, so consider speaking with an attorney who is well versed in Estate Planning and Administration to maximize your gifts to each family in equal proportions.

2. Defer taxes via spousal gifts. You can also reduce your estate tax liability by gifting to your spouse during your lifetime. While this will reduce estate taxes upon your death, your spouse’s estate (including your gifts) would not be taxed until his/her death.

3. Create a family limited partnership. If you have a family business you want to pass on to your heirs, create a family limited partnership to avoid estate taxes on the business. Creating this limited partnership will also allow your heirs to have their partnership income taxed at a rate lower than estate taxes.

4. Donate to charity. By making lifetime charitable gifts to foundations and non-profit organizations, you can reduce your income tax liability and avoid more significant estate taxes. Work with an estate planning attorney to figure out how you can best donate to charities and reduce estate taxes while leaving behind a substantial inheritance to your family.

Remember, working through your estate planning now will make it easier for your family to make a smooth financial transition after you’re gone.

Estate Planning Essentials: Creating A Durable Power Of Attorney

Copy of 3 Ways a Living WillWhen most people think of estate planning they think of how they’re going to bequeath their assets to heirs, but estate planning is also about planning for the inevitable end of life process. One tool that helps empower you is the durable power of attorney (POA). Let’s take a look at how you can properly use a power of attorney as part of your estate planning.

Types of POA

There are two different types of power of attorney, 1) a POA that gives an authorized person the power to make decisions about your healthcare if you’re incapacitated and 2) a POA that gives an authorized person the power to make financial decisions for you in the case of your incapacitation. It’s advisable to get both as part of your plan for the end of life process.

Levels Of Power

Many people planning their estates get nervous about POAs because they fear giving someone too much control over their life. But their fears are often exaggerated because POAs can be written to allow the authorized person limited powers. For example, you might have your POA state that the authorized person can only pay bills on your behalf, but cannot take out new debt.


It’s important that POAs are created before you actually need them since they are only valid if created by someone who is of sound mind. This means that if you were to develop dementia, you would be unable to create a power of attorney at that time. If your loved ones wanted to take charge of your affairs at that point they would need to get a court to appoint them as your guardian. A little advanced planning will give you the power to decide who will be the one to care for you in case you’re incapacitated. It also give you the time to discuss your wishes beforehand.


As long as you’re of sound mind you have the power to change or revoke a power of attorney. A matter of fact, it’s important that you make reviewing your power of attorney every few years a priority to make sure that the person you’re authorizing is still up to doing it.

If you want to learn more about durable power of attorney, please contact me at anytime, I’ll be happy to help with your questions.

Estate Planning Basics: Three Conversations You Should Have With Your Family

Estate Planning BasicsOne of the most common mistakes people make in their estate planning is failing to communicate their wishes to their family. Below are three conversations you should have with your family to ensure that your estate is handled according to your wishes.

Conversation #1: Who will care for you in case of incapacitation.

No one wants to think about becoming incapacitated, but the truth is that anyone can have an accident or illness that leaves them unable to care for themselves. You need to discuss with all family members what your wishes are in case something unfortunate occurs. You should also speak with the person you want to carry out your wishes and confirm that they’re up for the task.

Conversation #2: The location of your will and other important documents.

You should let two to three people know where your will and other important documents are located. Even if you have written instructions, you should discuss with your loved ones what they need to do in case of your death or incapacitation.

Conversation #3: The care of your children or other dependents.

Inform your family of who you have chosen to care of your children in case of your death or incapacitation. Go over the details of how you expect the children to be raised and any other important instructions. Also put the instructions in writing. If you’re ill and expecting to pass away soon, you should also discuss with your children/dependents (in an age appropriate manner) what will happen once you pass away. Don’t forget to help the child adjust to their potential new guardian by allowing them to spend time with that person.

Having the right conversations about your wishes is a sure way to help everyone transition after you pass. It’s hard for all of us to approach the subject, but can alleviate so many worries and misunderstanding if your family is properly prepared. I’ll be here every step of the way as you think through your plans, and encourage you to call me with questions.

Estate Planning Basics: How To Give Your Grandchildren The Gift Of Education

sevillaMany people planning their estates use gift giving as a way to reduce estate taxation before they pass away. However, many people overlook the tax and estate planning benefits of 529 college savings plans.

What Is A 529 College Savings Plan?

A 529 college savings plan is an investment vehicle that allows you to set aside money for another person’s educational expenses. For your purposes, this will likely be your grandchildren. The main benefit of 529 plans is that they are tax-free while allowing you to retain control of the account.

How Much Can I Contribute?

You can contribute as much as you like as long as it doesn’t exceed $14,000 annually for that beneficiary. Any gifts that exceed $14,000 annually will be taxed. However, if you opt to contribute a large lump sum, you can request that the IRS spread the gift over a number of years (up to five) for gift tax purposes. This means that if you gave $28,000, for the purposes of taxation, you could spread the gift over the span of two years.

What If My Grandchild Doesn’t Go To College?

Even if your grandchild decides against college, you can transfer the 529 plan to another beneficiary or you can withdraw the funds for your own needs. Just remember, if you withdraw the money for any reason other than educational expenses, that money will be taxed and you’ll face a penalty.

When Should I Start?

You can begin contributing to a 529 plan at any time. Even if the beneficiary is very young and you pass away before they reach 18, they can still receive the money once they come of age. If you want to use 529 college savings plans as part of your estate planning, speak with an attorney about how you can do it effectively.

If you have questions about your Estate Plan, allocation of funds for educational use, or the tax benefits that are available to you, I’m here to help. I’ve spent my career, advocating and planning for the residents of Louisiana. It would be an honor to assist you as you plan for the next chapter of your legacy.

Three Things You Should Include in Your Will

3 Ways a Living WillCreating a legally enforceable Will is an important part of estate planning. An enforceable Will is properly created, is valid in form, clearly directs the distribution of your assets, and, if applicable, states your desire regarding the care for dependents after your death. Below are three things you should include in your Will:

1. Legacy or assets.

Your Will should include your assets, identify who is to inherit your assets and which assets you want to give each person who you choose to receive an inheritance from you. Remember, if you fail to mention in your Will who you want to inherit your assets, then it is likely that your intentions will not come to pass and the people you intend to have your assets may not be awarded assets as you intended, after your death. Even if you make an oral promise, or your informally written intention without a legally enforceable Will, it is not likely to be recognized in a court of law. Oral promises do not carry as much weight as a written will, so make a point of reviewing and updating your will regularly with an estate planning attorney.

2. Asset distribution instructions.

Your Will should be specific regarding how and when you want your assets distributed to your heirs or legacies. For example, you might prefer that your minor children, nephews or nieces should receive their inheritance from your estate but not until after a stated age such as their 18th, 21st, 25th birthday, or later. You may also impose restrictions on heirs and expressly state any restrictions in your Will such as attaining a certain age or graduating from college.

3. Executor.

You should name an Executor of your Will, and the named executor should be someone who you trust to responsibly assure that your wishes are respected and followed. By clearly appointing an executor in you Will, you can enhance the chances that your express desires are carried out after your death.

NOTE: Your Will should express your preference regarding who should be appointed by the Court to care for any of your dependents after your death. Also, if you have minor children or adult dependents, then before you name anyone as tutor or guardian of your dependents, you should discuss the details with an attorney regarding tutorships. Your preferences should be discussed with an estate planning lawyer with experience in handling estate planning and succession matters.

If you want to find out what other elements you should include in your will, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.

Three Ways Estate Planning Can Give You Peace of Mind

3 Ways a Living WillWhile estate planning is important for many legal and financial reasons, it can also be a proactive and powerful way to gain some peace of mind as you grow old. Below are a few ways estate planning can ease your concerns about the future:

1. Care for vulnerable loved ones. If you’re like most people, you probably have a family member who may need extra help. Maybe you have an elderly parent or a child with a mental disability. Whatever the case may be, you can use estate planning to make sure they receive the help they need long after you’re gone.

2. Choose caretakers for your children. Even if you’re not a single parent, it’s critical to have someone care for your children just in case you or your spouse is suddenly unable to parent due to an unexpected injury, disability or illness. With the right estate planning, you can make sure that your children are cared for when you are no longer here to care for them.

3. Ensure your wishes are respected. No one comes from a perfect family, but passing on without an estate plan in place increases the possibility that your loved ones disagree over the use or distribution of your assets. By appointing a trustee for your estate, for example, you can ensure that your wishes are followed and that your estate is distributed in an orderly manner.

Don’t let the task of estate planning fall by the wayside, your peace of mind is depending on it. I have had the privilege of helping many people who plan in advance and have peace of mind that comes with planning their estate. And, I will be glad to help you and your family as well.

3 Estate Planning Resolutions for the New Year

3 Ways a Living Will (1)

Another year has passed and a 2015 is already here.  And with a new year comes many resolutions. Estate planning is one thing that most people fail to think about during their planning for the New Year.  Below are three estate planning resolutions you should consider:

  1. Stay organized. By the time most of us reach mid-life, we will have accumulated a variety of assets – both big and small. Stocks, bonds, 401(k)s, IRAs and stray insurance policies can pile up and create an unmanageable mountain of documents.  We may even forget about some of our financial accounts or smaller assets.  Get organized to avoid misplacing or forgetting about your assets.  Stay organized by creating a file for every asset you own, and make a habit of keeping a record of each asset as you acquire it.
  2. Review beneficiaries.  Take a look at your asset records and keep your beneficiary information up-to-date. If you recently divorced, you may want to replace your former spouse with another beneficiary of your choice.  If you’ve had a child during the past year, you may want to designate your son or daughter as a beneficiary on life insurance policies, annuities or other financial assets. Be sure to speak with an estate planning professional about the tax consequences and legal implications beneficiary designations.
  3. Create a Last Will and Testament. For many people, just the thought of creating a Will can seem overwhelming. The process of creating a Will doesn’t have to be complex. You can begin by making a list that details how you want your most important assets divided after you are gone. An experienced estate planning professional can help you to understand the process of creating a Last Will and Testament and how your wishes are followed after you are gone.

Estate planning is an important process and it is valuable to you and your loved ones.  But it can’t be done in a day. Make a New Year’s resolution – begin to create your estate plan today, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I’ve had the great pleasure of helping my clients to make a plan that suits their needs and accomplishes their goals – Estate Planning is essential.  If you have questions on where to begin, I’d be happy to speak with you.


The three ways a Living Will can make you a better parent.

3 Ways a Living Will (1)A Living Will is legal document that ensures that end-of-life decisions are made according to your wishes when, for example, you are on a ventilator with no little or no quality of life and no reasonable chance of survival.

As parents we eat stress for breakfast.  Our schedules are jam packed, overloaded and leave little room for long term planning.  When we do have a break from the madness we spend our time with those we love and care about most.

As we move through life, we take on more responsibilities, as do our children. For them, one day their responsibility will be you. For most of us, this is a difficult pill to swallow. That there will come a time expected or unexpected when your daughter, son or partner will need to take care of you.

Enjoying life to the fullest means setting aside tomorrow’s worries you and your family may have as best you can, so that you can be present in their world today.  A Living Will can help you do just that.

By outlining your goals for your estate and legacy, you can lift that burden from your family members. Imagine what it would be like to be distraught, or scattered by an unexpected accident or illness.  Think for a moment about having to act on the behalf of a loved one in a time when emotions are raw, during a time of illness or hardship … and you were not given any directions. You are at a loss for words, cannot think straight and haven’t a clue what that person really, really wanted. Financial questions circling around you, a task list to coordinate and execute mounts.  This is not a time when you want to feel that you’ve been left in the dark.

That is just the place where so many families find themselves.  Left to guess and decide the proper course of action for a loved one who in the midst of a busy life … and who forgot to leave a plan, or even notes.

Being a good parent means planning for your family’s future, including yours.  Don’t leave things to chance or speculation.  Put a Living Will in place, and soon you will feel a cloud of stress clear, a stressor that you did not recognize was hanging over you.

A Living Will can make you a better parent by tackling these three difficult decision areas:

#1. Express your preference regarding life-sustaining treatment for end-of-life medical decisions.

No one can predict the future, or the circumstances surrounding an event or incident.  Thinking through potential situations, and what would be best for your family now with a clear-headed state of mind, is much easier than making decisions while approaching medical treatment options in the midst of a catastrophic injury or illness.

#2.  Give your family peace of mind that your desires will be followed.

In times when emotions run high, unanswered questions about your personal wishes can easily cause for distraught family members to disagree about options for your care in end-of-life circumstances.  You can express your desire, in advance, and take the burden off your family by executing Living Will.

#3.  Prevent your assets from being depleted by life-sustaining medical treatment during end end-of-life medical care.  

Providing financial stability for your family after you’re gone is something you have planned for your whole life. You can document and express the parameters and circumstances in which you would in good conscious choose to discontinue aggressive medical care.

I know this can be overwhelming to think about and especially daunting if today you are happily surrounded by your family and in good health.  We all hope that every day is one that we can live life to the fullest.  We all want our family to be protected, financially and emotionally.  Creating a plan where you can ensure sensible and well documented guidance through one of life’s biggest challenges is a duty you owe to your loved ones and to yourself.

If you don’t know where to start, what to ask, or how to begin, I am here to help.  My clients are like family, as are members of their families.  To find out more about a Living Will as an estate planning tool, please contact me and we can talk.  Connect with me via any of the vehicles below, and I’ll be happy to make time to listen to you and answer your questions.


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Michael Calogero, a lawyer’s story.

photoYour life’s work includes your job or your business; you work to build a foundation for your family and a legacy that provides peace of mind for you and security for your family.  Along the way, life happens and sometimes you need a professional, a lawyer you can trust, to consult or for representation to protect your interests.

Michael Calogero is a rare attorney, licensed in Louisiana, whose passion for more than 20 years has been to serve people like you – individuals, families, and small business owners.   Michael’s integrity and desire to serve is part of his family values, instilled in him by his father, Pascal F. Calogero, Jr., a lawyer, jurist & public servant who knows what true service is all about.

Growing up in New Orleans, Michael watched his father as a lawyer in private practice who was elevated to serving as a Louisiana Supreme Court Justice, a pure jurist with a servant’s heart, a student of the law who has made a significant impact on the legal profession beginning in 1972 and serving for more than 36 years, including 18 years as head of the judiciary for this State.

Values – respect and human dignity of every person; compassion and empathy; hard work; commitment to excellence; these are just some foundational beliefs Michael learned growing up. He knew that he wanted to serve and to guard the rights of people in the community. His journey into the legal profession began in a Gentilly neighborhood in New Orleans, at Brother Martin High School with the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.  Michael was a recipient of a Golden Crusader Award, given to those who exemplify the spirit of the Brother Martin community – service for the good of others.

Michael attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. He learned business principles which he later applied in practice with his business clients – managing risk and fostering growth.

After graduating from LSU, Michael worked in local government, further preparing him for the law.  In 1990, he enrolled in the Loyola University College of Law night program; he worked full-time while attending law school. Michael’s intellect and commitment to learning was evident; he completed law school in December of 1993 as a member of the Alpha Sigma Nu National Honor Society, a member of the Loyola Law Review, and placement in the top 3% of his class.

After becoming licensed by passing the Louisiana Bar Exam in 1994, Michael jumped into private practice, worked with a reputable, local law firm where he gained valuable experience representing injured individuals with legal rights to compensation afforded by law. In the personal injury litigation forum, Michael was equipped with hands-on experience as an advocate of individuals, a champion of worthy causes.

His passion for service was ignited; after 3 ½ years as an associate, Michael was equipped and prepared to strike out on his own.  In January 1998, he founded the Law Office of Michael G. Calogero, LLC.  Just as much an entrepreneur as an attorney, Michael set up his law practice and continued to serve his clients.  His tenure in local government had shown him the need for true, caring and thoughtful service to people in his community.  Michael has served numerous clients – individuals, families & businesses in Louisiana, in both state court and federal court.

Michael approaches every client and their loved ones as if they were family.  With clients who face difficult circumstances, he addresses the story of the client and any personal concerns then he assists in setting practical goals and objectives for each client he represents. He pays close attention to the expressed needs, listens to the facts, hopes, wishes and dreams for the future, some on the verge of being jeopardized or shattered.

Michael offers compassion, empathy and solid judgment, based on the law and equity. This is what sets Michael apart. His clients get the feeling that instead of talking to an attorney they are cared for like family or like a next door neighbor over the hedge of the lawn.  This type of comfortable atmosphere and clear line of open communication create a strong relationship of trust and commitment between Michael and his clients.

Often thinking outside the box and responding to clients’ goals with practical solutions, Michael is an advocate, a leader who is more than capable of assessing, clarifying and explaining the law and options, in common sense language.  It is part of his daily work, and Michael relishes his role as counselor, advocate and consummate professional who is here to help.

If you have been hesitant to plan for your family’s future, address a business need, or outline how your legacy should live on, Michael is here to listen. Not to talk at you, not to overwhelm you with legal jargon, not to give you cookie cutter solutions.  But, rather, to sit and listen … and to learn about your history, journey, dreams, goals and priorities.

Michael’s goal is to help you protect and plan for your future in the same way his father helped so many as he grew up.  So, when you are ready, he’ll be here – to listen, to talk and to share his insights and assessments.  Here are some comments from some of Michael’s clients:

“Your memory and attention to detail is nothing short of remarkable.  Your work ethic is most impressive. There have been times when you have returned my phone calls at hours when I didn’t even think people were still awake much less still working. I would recommend Michael’s legal services to anyone who is looking for an attorney who truly is concerned about their personal matters as much as they are.”  – Bob F.

The first time I sat down for a legal consultation with Michael Calogero, he listened and wrote.  He would ask questions and he would write.  I find his ability to focus in on any dynamic of my case with such assertiveness rather amazing.  Michael will regularly call to keep me informed of updates involving my case.  I know for sure he has spent many Saturdays and Sundays working on my case as well as many late nights.  It is this passion and effort along with great intelligence that Michael Calogero displays that keeps me confident that my family and I are in good hands.  I am thankful that he understands the impact of our case on me and my family.”   – Edward L.

“Michael has handled all of my legal needs very compassionately, efficiently and has guided me through the always confusing legal process that can be frustrating to the average person. He has always returned my calls when needed never avoiding the hard questions and explaining things to me as to help me make the correct decisions. I would highly recommend him as an attorney for all needs he will serve you well.” -Don C.

“It was a pleasure working with Michael Calogero in the representation of my cousin as his attorney because of his knowledge concerning the legal matter.  In my eyes, he is an expert in legal proceedings, he kept us informed of all proceedings and we fully trusted his judgment and expertise.  I would proudly recommend family and friends to experience his commitment to service.  I’m thankful for everything he has done.”  – Cathy B.

“Every now and then you meet the right person, in this case, the right professional, who does just the right thing at just the right time … in the nick of time.  Michael Calogero fit that bill for my husband and I.  We feel that he was able to develop, legally, the documents needed to protect us … He analyzed the documents we presented along with what we spoke about … if we need him we know he will be there and that his judgment and his knowledge and research of the law will protect us.”  – Joan S. and Gil S.

Whether (1) you have been injured and need an advocate to fight for you; (2) you have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one; (3) you would like to discuss an estate plan for financial stability and asset protection for your family; (4) you are starting a new business or have a need to manage risk, Michael will be there personally to listen. Call (504) 456-8883.

Thank you for sharing your precious time with us. Please know that if you need a sounding board, a confidant, some sound advice from a friend across the hedge, Michael is here to help.


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The three reasons you should have a Power of Attorney document.

The 3 Reasons for having a Power of Attorney

It’s not fun to think about situations when you might not be at your best. Injury, unexpected illness, or an accident can catch you and your family off-guard.  While this is a reality, it is not pleasant or comfortable to think that this can happen to you, but it can so you should be prepared in the event that it does happen.

Being prepared for life’s curve-balls is a duty you owe to yourself and your family. There are a host of documents that can provide some protection and planning for your family without a lot of work or expense.

Here are the top three reasons why you should prepare a Power of Attorney document for yourself, your spouse, or other family members.

#1 – Trust

Trust is at the core of almost all estate planning decisions.  Appointing someone to serve as your agent, who knows you well, is important and considerable thought should be given before deciding who is best to speak for you when you can’t make decisions for yourself.  Choose someone who is familiar with your passions, goals, priorities and values.  This person should be someone who you know will always act in the best interests of you and your family.

#2 – Your Health is an Unknown 

Without going through the cost and planning of an entire estate plan, designating a trusted confidant as your agent in a Power of Attorney document is a great way to ensure decisions can be made when you are not able to do so due to health reasons.  You never know when a routine surgery doesn’t go according to plan, or you are rendered unconscious or unable to communicate after an accident.  A Power of Attorney document is usually the most cost effective first step to plan for any potential health related decision making issues.

#3 – Decisions Surrounding Surgery or Medical Treatment

When you are sick, medicated or unable to communicate due to a medical issue, who will be your voice? Who knows how you feel about your medical treatment, surgery or complex procedures?  Whether a family member or friend, this person will be legally allowed not only to see you but to make decisions on your behalf.  Power of Attorney, in that moment, can be what saves your life.  The person you designate as your agent can serve as your medical liaison and will have the ability to visit you in the hospital, act on your behalf, and lobby for additional medical treatment options. Your agent will be your voice when you are not able to speak for yourself.   Something that may be hard to fathom now could be a life-saver later.

How do I know if a Power of Attorney is right for me?

There are two different types of Power of Attorney: General and Special.  In a General Power of Attorney, you designate someone as your agent to step in when you are unable to make decisions for yourself, whether it is medical, financial or any other decisions in your best interests.  And, it only goes into effect when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  In a Special Power of Attorney, you designate an agent who can perform a specific act on your behalf such as to attend an Act of Sale in your absence. And, like a General Power or Attorney, it only goes into effect when a specified situation occurs.

To find out which is right for you, please reach out and let’s talk.  With a Power of Attorney for yourself or your loved one, you can take an active step to protect your best interests.  You can reach me via any of the vehicles below, and I’ll be happy to make myself available to listen to you and to answer your questions.


Follow Michael on Twitter | Like Our Page on Facebook | Get to know Michael on LinkedIn | Email Michael Directly | Call Michael at 504-456-8683 or toll free at (877) 556-8683