Merlino & Gonzalez - May 2021

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May 2021





In both cases, we’re helping set people up for stability and success down the road. He does it by helping them get a house where they can grow and thrive. And I do it by setting young people up for life with good dental habits and great teeth when they’re old enough to leave. Pediatric dentistry wasn’t exactly on my radar after I graduated dental school back in 1994, but over the next few years of general practice, I realized that I was missing out on something big and rewarding, and I made the decision to go back and specialize. I graduated from Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in Brooklyn back in 1999 as a board- certified pediatric specialist and opened my own practice in 2000. Since then, I’ve seen so many kids, including John’s kids, and I’ve watched those patients grow from toddlers to teenagers to college kids in for their last couple checkups with me. Watching that growth and knowing those kids will have great teeth and be great dental patients for life has just been tremendously rewarding. It’s like the teaching I always wanted to do on a one-on-one level with kids who really need to know this stuff. And I get to help their parents, as well, which is good. After all, not too many 4-year-olds are making their own appointments and driving to my

This month, we’re featuring someone near and dear to our hearts: John’s own cousin, Dr. Phyllis Merlino. Dr. Merlino has been a pediatric dentist here on Staten Island for 21 years and counting, and in that time, she’s collected a wealth of knowledge about taking care of your teeth as well as a philosophy of “things come back around” that I think is admirable. She sees the work she does as having a long-term impact, and that’s how we felt about helping with her real estate needs. I hope you’ll enjoy this letter from her. G rowing up, I wanted to be one of two things, and the first was always a dentist. I can’t believe this, but in fourth grade, I wrote an essay saying just that! The second was a teacher — I liked kids! — but I always knew that dentistry would be a rewarding career, even back then. And looking at my career, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have been right about that. It’s funny because when I think of the work that my cousin John did for me, helping me out with real estate law when I needed it, it’s similar to the way I think about my own job.

offices by themselves! I remember one mother who brought her 6-year-old in. She knew he had bad teeth and began to come back religiously every six months. Slowly but surely, his teeth recovered, and decaying baby teeth gave way to great, strong adult teeth. Now that boy is headed off to college, and his mother and I couldn’t be happier.

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of exercise more broadly as “leading an active lifestyle.” And remember that exercise can be fun and a great way to get in more family time.

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. As a parent, you probably know exercise is important for your children’s physical development. It helps build healthy bones, muscles, and joints and reduces the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases later in life. But did you know that physical activity also has many mental and behavioral health benefits? It’s been shown to improve children’s cognitive skills and concentration, boost their self-esteem, and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. One of the best ways to encourage healthy behaviors in your children is by modeling them yourself. Studies have found that more than 80% of adolescents and adults are not getting enough aerobic activity, showing that children often follow in their parents’ footsteps and that exercising together can benefit everyone. You may be thinking it’s hard enough just to get yourself to the gym, but Stephen Virgilio, author of “Active Start for Healthy Kids,” encourages parents not to limit themselves to traditional forms of exercise. Instead, think


Here are five easy ways to incorporate more movement into your family’s day.

1. Create a walking ritual. Start walking around the neighborhood before or after dinner each night. Aim for a 20-minute stroll. 2. Have a dance party. Clear some space in the living room, make a playlist with everyone’s favorite tunes, and boogie down for as long as you have the energy. 3. Turn chores into games. Dirt has invaded from outer space and must be eliminated. Set the scene with your kids, grab your tools, and get to work removing the enemy while having fun. 4. Incorporate simple exercises into screen time. Start by making up fun names for exercises like situps or jumping jacks. Then, challenge each other to see who can do the most during your favorite show’s commercial breaks. 5. Get fit in the great outdoors. Cleaning up the yard, planting and maintaining a garden, or just running around outside are all great ways to get in more movement.

Honor — or Headache?


E state executors are often chosen because they are the most staid, thoughtful, and sober-minded member of the surviving family. At least, that’s the reputation. Believe it or not, as far as your legal and financial security is concerned, the best way to deal with this duty is to refuse it outright! If you can’t, you need to contact an estate attorney who can help you negotiate the tricky waters you find yourself in. This is especially helpful if you want to avoid being held liable in suits by the deceased’s debtors, inheritors, or others who feel they should receive a piece of the estate. One great plan is to have yourself bonded, but there are many ways an attorney will assist you as you work under the “Sword of Damocles” of being sued.

estate to be stolen is for heirs and others to take things from the deceased person’s possessions without telling you. It might be a good idea to change the locks or take other measures. An executor’s worst nightmare is to have a family heirloom mentioned in the will that the executor cannot produce to give to the inheritor. After that, you want to assess the debts owed by the estate before paying any of them . If you can’t afford to cover them all, you don’t want to pay a few and then be held liable by the rest for not paying them, instead. If you have to liquidate property and the method isn’t outlined in the estate plan, work with heirs to set a price but never attempt to increase the estate’s value on your own.

As you can see, it can be tricky. If you know you’ll be an executor in the future, you can plan ahead. If you call 718-682-7015, we can help.

The most basic duty of an executor is to protect the estate . After all, you can’t distribute what isn’t there, right? The most common way for the


Good Estate Planning Covers All the Bases A strong estate strategy includes having plans in place that help secure a future you want for yourself and your loved ones. With a good estate plan, few issues can arise without a clear answer, including the issues we don’t like to think about, such as incapacity. While death is inevitable, incapacity is not necessarily something that you will face in your life. It is, however, something you could face. others from knowing certain medical details about a person without a release or HIPAA authorization circumventing that rule. You will, of course, want a HIPAA authorization for the agent under your health care power of attorney so that person can be updated on your medical status. But What About Incapacity?

Last but not least, you may want to consider setting up a revocable trust. A revocable trust allows you to transfer assets into the trust but still retain control over those assets. In the event that you become incapacitated, however, the trust will continue to manage those assets for you. This can be an efficient and effective way to make sure your affairs are maintained no matter what circumstances you may face. Obviously, this information is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to know more about estate planning, real estate law, or one of our other areas of specialization, please call us at 718‑682‑7015.

Preparation starts with having a durable power of attorney, which may be invaluable in the future. The durability feature of a power of attorney means it remains effective even if you, the principal, become incapacitated. Additionally, a health care power of attorney, which empowers the agent you have selected with the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf, is also critical — and very powerful to have alongside a living will.

HIPAA authorizations must also be part of your plan. HIPAA is a privacy law protecting

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Could I imagine anything better?

I suppose the only thing that might come close is, well, teaching — specifically, to a classroom full of children in addition to the one-on-one time I already get with my pediatric patients. Amazingly, my career has let me come full circle and accomplish that, too. For years now, I’ve seen over a thousand kids a year in classrooms all across Staten Island because of the great relationships I’ve built with teachers who know their classes need to understand more about dental care and its importance. I’m not there to tell them never to have candy or anything like that! I’m there to give them realistic advice based on an understanding of dental health that’s easy for them to grasp. Like most people who have taught in the past year, things were thrown for a loop by this pandemic. But even then, I found myself teaching over Zoom to the classes of a select few teachers with whom I have built relationships. I even got to teach a class in North Carolina, where a friend of mine’s daughter teaches! Now that’s something I didn’t see coming when I signed up for dental school! And my career is full of moments like those. I’m grateful to the patients who continue to trust me every day and grateful that life has allowed my hard work to pay off. In turn, I’m going to pay it back by setting up kids for dental health success for the rest of their lives.

Inspired by


• 1/2 cup yellow onions, finely diced

• 1 cup tightly packed spinach leaves • 1 cup tightly packed kale leaves, stems removed • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock • 2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk • 1 tsp kosher salt

• 1/2 cup green peppers, diced • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced • 1 cup long-grain white rice


3. Stir in rice and cook and toast for 1–2 minutes before adding the blended mixture. Increase heat to bring to a boil. 4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid has evaporated, 15–20 minutes. 5. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

1. In a blender, purée spinach and kale with vegetable stock, coconut milk, and salt. Set aside. 2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, sauté onions and peppers in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

–Phyllis G. Merlino, D.D.S.



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314



718-698-2200 |


For Dr. Phyllis Merlino, a Tough Career Choice Came Back Around! Page 1 5 Ways to Increase Your Family’s Fitness Being an Executor — Honor or Headache? Page 2 Good Estate Planning Covers All the Bases Green Rice Recipe Page 3

3 Tips for RVing on a Budget Page 4

Become a Savvy RV User And Save Money on Your Summer Road Trip

Each little action could make a big impact on your fuel bill.

Wildlife Management Area that allows overnight camping. Walmart allows RV parking at no cost, but some locations pose safety concerns. To mitigate this, well-meaning RVers have listed Walmart locations with red flags. You can check them out at

This past fall, RV manufacturers reported a 31% increase in sales compared to 2019. This was no doubt related to an effort to stave off the spread of COVID-19, which had more families opting to take road trips and camp instead of going on tropical and European vacations. While the great outdoors can be the perfect affordable backdrop for family vacations, it doesn’t come without a cost.

Re-Use Items in Your Home You may have a long to-buy list for your RV, but not everything on there may be necessary. Before splurging on the latest gear,

Save on Fuel Fuel could be your biggest expense, but you can cut down on the inevitable by driving slower than 60 mph when it’s safe to do so. Once you hit 60 mph or above in your RV, your gas mileage will drop. Furthermore, you can keep your gas bill in check by sticking to trips within your state,

consider what you have in your home. Use old kitchen utensils and plates, cleaning supplies, bedding, and entertainment items like books and toys in your RV to save money and clear some clutter from your home. It’s a win-win!

You can hit the road without your bank account taking a hit with these three must-do tips!

Stay for Free If you’re on a cross-country adventure, you will need a place to park and rest each night before continuing your adventure the next day. Rather than shelling out money every night, consider free options. Search for public land that’s part of the Bureau of Land Management or in a

Looking for more RV tips? Check out or download apps like AllStay, RVParky, and State Lines. Happy trails!

planning your route to avoid unnecessary detours, and leaving early to miss the traffic. 4

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