Merlino & Gonzalez July 2019

July 2019





And Why They Work Better Together

It’s common for a law firm to have different attorneys who specialize in particular areas, but we like to think we have a particular combination that provides extra value to our clients. We are not a one-and-done type of law firm where you come in when you have a problem and leave forever once it’s resolved, never to interact again. Instead, we want to provide a continuous experience that aids clients for many years. The two halves of our firm, real estate law and estate planning, naturally go hand in hand. When you buy a piece of property, you obtain a significant asset that may end up being part of your estate. Similarly, when you begin planning your estate, you need to consider how any property you hold will be involved in it. Because we have attorneys who specialize in both, we can make sure your real estate transactions are protected long after you close on a property. When your real estate actions dovetail with long-term estate planning, you protect your investments for future generations. Most people think of an attorney as somebody you work with on an as- needed basis. You get in a car accident, you call a personal injury lawyer; you’re going through a divorce, you contact a family law attorney; etc. Our firm is a bit different in structure and approach. Yes, you can call us when you’re buying or selling a home, and we’ll help make sure the legal portion of the transaction runs smoothly. But it doesn’t have to stop there. We can use your home transaction to begin the conversation about creating an estate plan that will detail your wishes for your assets and medical care. In our experience, it’s never too early to begin discussing your estate plan. As much as we don’t want to think about it, random tragedies happen. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you regret not having legally ironclad estate documents detailing the type of medical care you’d like to receive, the distribution of your assets, and who you want to handle your affairs once you’re gone. Putting a plan in place gives you peace of mind that no matter what happens, your

wishes will be honored. You may not need to use any of your estate planning documents for decades, but it still helps to have them there. The alternative can be scary, frustrating, and dread-inducing. The natural synergy between our practice areas allows us to work with clients over a number of years to help them provide for their loved ones and future generations. We want to learn about your life, your desires, and how you want the future to play out. Whether you’re considering buying a second home or wondering about how to protect your assets from potential long-term care costs, we are here to guide you through the process. Our job is never to make decisions about your life; it’s to give you the tools and information to allow you to make the best decision for yourself and your family. If you’ve only ever used our firm for real estate matters, I hope you’ll consider coming in to sit down and discuss your estate, and vice versa. We are a firm with two focuses, each complementary to the other. That dual focus, in part, is what makes us special and unique. We want to be your law firm for life, not just a problem solver you use in a time of need and promptly forget about afterward.



SUMMER SWIMMING SAFETY 3 Tips for Swimming in Open Water KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING INTO Sometimes, it’s next to impossible to see what’s under the surface of the water. If you are unfamiliar with a body of water, don’t jump or dive in without knowing how deep it is. If you cannot confirm what is under the surface (and the spot is not a known diving location), don’t risk it. It may be okay to swim or wade, but jumping is out of the question. Along these same lines, be VERY careful around bodies of slow- moving or standing water. These can house dangerous microbes and other contaminants that can make you ill and potentially be deadly. WATCH FOR RIP CURRENTS These can occur at any beach without warning. They pull swimmers away from shore and are strong enough that even excellent swimmers struggle to get through them. In fact, rip currents are behind nearly 80% of beach rescues. Keep an eye on the foam at the surface of the water. If it seems to suddenly pull away from the beach, there’s a good chance a rip current is lurking beneath. If you find yourself in a rip current, it’s crucial to remain calm and avoid expending energy swimming directly back to shore. Instead, try swimming parallel to the shore until you’re out of the current.

There’s nothing like taking a dip in a nearby pond, lake, or even the ocean. For many, it’s a summertime tradition. However, swimming in open bodies of water brings certain safety risks, as these environments are not nearly as controlled as public, club, or backyard pools. Everyone should follow these tips to have a fun and safe time cooling off under the summer sun. NEVER SWIM ALONE When you swim in virtually any body of water, having someone there to keep an eye on you can be a lifesaver: the more people, the better. Stick to bodies of water with a professional lifeguard on duty when possible, though that’s not always an option. When swimming in open bodies of water, have a “designated spotter” to keep an eye on the swimmers. This way, you’re prepared if anything bad happens. It’s also a great idea to keep flotation devices nearby, such as life jackets, life rings, foam boards, etc.

GONE TO THE DOGS How Can a Thief Sue the Family He Robbed?

Have you heard the story of Terrence Dickson? Even if you don’t know the name, you might have heard his strange tale. Dickson was a burglar in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One day, after breaking into a house and helping himself to some valuables, Dickson decided to leave through the garage. After discovering the automatic garage door was stuck closed, Dickson turned around and was horrified to realize he’d locked himself inside. To make matters worse, the family he was stealing from had just left for an extended vacation, so Dickson lived off of soda and dried dog food for eight days. When the family returned and found the unlucky burglar, a lawsuit was filed — by Dickson! He sued for mental anguish, and the jury awarded him $500,000. There’s nothing that shakes our faith in the justice system quite like injustice being served. When Dickson’s story first gained notoriety in 2001, thanks to an email circulated by the now-defunct Stella Awards newsletter, which highlighted “outrageous lawsuits,” people were rightfully enraged. There was just one problem: Terrence Dickson never existed. In 2002, a reporter from Pennsylvania contacted the Bucks County prothonotary’s office, where all records for civil cases in the county are kept. He discovered there was no record of any cases involving such a burglar. It’s

worth noting the original email where this story first appeared ended with a call for tort reform from a made-up law firm in Ohio. Likely, this hoax was an attempt to manipulate the public perception of the justice system. Despite being debunked 17 years ago, this tall tale still makes the rounds and often appears on lists of “outrageous lawsuits,” many of which are featured on the websites of legitimate law firms! There are plenty of wacky legal cases, but when a story is too ridiculous, there’s a good chance a few important details are being left out or the readers are being lied to. Don’t believe everything you read online!




Retirement is a chapter of life most people look forward to. Sadly, many don’t actively prepare for what their life after work will look like. Entering retirement with your eyes open can be the difference between later-in-life stress and post-career bliss. To make sure you’re ready, ask yourself the following questions. WHAT WILL MY RETIREMENT LOOK LIKE, AND HOW MUCH WILL IT COST? Don’t fall into the trap of seeing only what you won’t do in retirement: work. The more important concern is figuring out what you will do. Start with the first year and go from there. Once you’ve established a tentative plan, you can realistically determine how much you will spend each month. It’s a good idea to estimate spending on the high end to leave yourself a little wiggle room. AM I PREPARED FOR HEALTH CARE COSTS? People are living much longer than they did in past generations, so you have to consider both current and future health care costs. Anticipating these costs is an essential aspect of prudent

retirement planning. Many people should also consider long- term care insurance because quality care is extremely costly without coverage. Your decisions on these matters are based on personal circumstances, but everyone needs to think about them. DO I HAVE ENOUGH CAPITAL? Borrowing money can be difficult for retirees. You may be denied loans or forced to pay a higher rate. As such, you may want to consider refinancing your home before you retire. It’s also vital to understand the dividends you’ll receive from retirement savings accounts. A good-sized emergency fund should cover six months of expenses, so you’ll want to have at least that much cash on hand at all times. IS MY ESTATE IN ORDER? Planning your estate early in retirement will give you peace of mind when it comes to your assets and decisions about your health should they arise. Addressing all aspects of the estate will ensure your later-in-life wishes are fulfilled.


take a break


• 2 lbs. ground chuck beef, 20% lean • 8 slices melting cheese (like American, Swiss, Muenster, or cheddar) • 16 small potato rolls, toasted

• Salt and pepper, to taste • Your favorite burger accompaniments


1. Divide beef into 16 evenly sized balls. 2. Rip cheese into roughly equal pieces, creating 16 equal portions. 3. Using your index finger, create a small indentation in each ball. 4. Fill indention with cheese and pinch meat around to seal. Then gently form balls into 3/4-inch-thick patties. Season patties. 5. Meanwhile, heat a cast-iron skillet to medium-high. 6. Lightly coat skillet with oil and cook patties in batches. Brown one side undisturbed, about 3 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until desired doneness, about 3 minutes for medium. 7. Serve on toasted potato rolls with your favorite accompaniments.

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The Breadth of Our Services 3 Things Everyone Needs to Know Before Swimming in Open Water Did You Hear About the Dog Food Burglar? Are You Ready for Retirement? Juicy Lucy Sliders Avoid the Summer Heat Somewhere Cool

ICELAND Just as its name suggests, Iceland can be the perfect destination for travelers yearning to get away from the unbearable summer heat. With temperatures rarely exceeding 60 degrees F — the average high for the country — packing is easy for this relaxing vacation. Take a relaxing dip in one of the country’s many hot springs or enjoy tremendous views of the fjords. Even better, you can tour the country at any time because it’s sunny almost 24 hours a day. What could be better than a midnight hike around the fourth happiest country in the world? NORWAY Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to give up your skiing hobby! Venture off to Norway and experience some of their most popular summer ski resorts. After a day or two shredding the slopes, experience the popular Norwegian Opera and Ballet in Oslo or choose between numerous outdoor and indoor exhibitions. Best of all, you won’t even break a sweat, as the average temperature in Norway’s hottest month barely hits 70 degrees F. Bordering Sweden and northern Finland, Norway can even be the beginning to a cool European tour this summer. CHILL OUT Relax in These Cool Destinations This Summer

As the scorching summer sun beats down, it’s hard to remember that just six months ago you were shivering through the winter, whether that meant a chilly 50 degrees F or bitter subzero temperatures. But if cooler temps sound like paradise, and a dip in the pool is no longer keeping you cool, it might be time to take a vacation somewhere chilly. Check out these three destinations to avoid the summer heat. ALASKA No place says chilly quite like Alaska. Trips to Alaska can be expensive during this time of year, but when you step into that crisp air with a cool mountainous view, you’ll understand why it’s a popular summer voyage. Travelers can choose to fly or take a cruise ship, and many cities feature tourism-packed excursions. A few notable locations include Anchorage, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and Denali National Park and Preserve. 4

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