WE KEEP YOU ON THE RIGHT PATH
IN A MANOR OF SPEAKING
ESTATE ISSUES HANDLED WITH GRACE
My Experience With Ken Gonzalez
When I was entrusted to be the executor of my brother James’ estate, I didn’t know where to turn. I had never done anything like it before, and it certainly isn’t something I was trained on during my career. After speaking with another of my brothers, Don, and his wife, Kay, who worked as a Realtor, they referred me to Ken Gonzalez.
Later in the process, the team at Merlino & Gonzalez proved helpful again when I felt I was being lowballed on the sale of James’ home. I was not happy with my Realtor, feeling they were rushing to close a sale rather than acting in my best interest. Ken quickly recommended a better option to me and assisted in making sure the closing went smoothly.
I was immediately at ease with Ken from our very first conversation. I hadn’t even decided that I would hire him to help with James’ estate; we were just having a casual conversation about what was going on. Ken’s sense of caring and understanding impressed me. He clearly knew what he was talking about, but more than that, he demonstrated that he cared for my personal situation.
At every turn, he and his team were there to help. When I called the office, I knew Ken or Alex would answer. I never felt ignored or rushed. The level of investment Merlino & Gonzalez shows to their clients is something every firm, and every business in general, should aspire to.
“Had I been going it alone, these hurdles would’ve felt insurmountable. But with Ken’s expert guidance, they felt routine. He assured me at every turn that what I was going through was totally normal and that he’d help me with any issue that occurred.“
As I began working with Ken, his level of service never dipped below exceptional. Luckily, my brother’s estate was not a contentious one, but there are always hiccups when it comes time to execute an estate. Had I been going it alone, these hurdles would’ve felt insurmountable. But with Ken’s expert guidance, they felt routine. He assured me at every turn that what I was going through was totally normal and that he’d help me with any issue that occurred. Ken certainly delivered on that promise. For example, before we could begin divesting the estate, I needed approval from a nephew. Tracking him down was proving difficult, so I spoke to Ken about it. He told me that if we could not reach my nephew, we’d have to file a court summons in order to begin the process of executing the estate. Nobody likes the idea of sending a court summons to a relative, but Ken assured it was par for the course. Before it was time to file the papers, my nephew had returned his letter.
I’m excited to spend the holidays with my wife, Mary, and my three children. My daughter was in a car accident earlier this year, and the surgeries she needs were finally approved by the insurance company, so we have plenty to celebrate this year. I’ll also be toasting to the work of Ken Gonzalez, who made executing my brother’s estate a simple and straightforward process. Thank you to everyone at Merlino & Gonzalez. As somebody who grew up on Staten Island, I mean it when I say you do our borough proud. My holidays will be much brighter thanks to your guidance. –Joseph DeMeo
MULTICULTURAL CELEBRATIONS Teach Your Kids About Winter Holidays
According to the Pew Research Center, Christmas is the most celebrated December holiday in the U.S. Yet, like the melting pot it is, the U.S. contains many cultures from across the globe, each with their own traditions. Teach your kids about some of the holiday celebrations from different cultures this season. KWANZAA Created in 1966 by black studies professor Maulana Karenga during the Black Nationalist Movement, Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration and reflection period for African Americans. The week offers African Americans the opportunity to connect with African culture and history by celebrating the seven principles of African heritage, which include unity, self-determination, and creativity. HANUKKAH Hanukkah pays homage to a two-year Jewish rebellion against an oppressive Greek-Syrian government that took them captive in an attempt to eliminate Judaism. The tradition of the eight- day celebration and the lighting of the menorah candles comes from the story of a miracle that happened during the rebellion, when a one-day supply of oil burned for eight days in a temple.
DIWALI Though celebrated in late fall, Diwali is a Hindu holiday that’s known as the festival of lights. Its main purpose is to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, and the five-day festival includes the lighting of candles or lamps, feasting, and giving gifts to family and friends. Diwali also celebrates the Hindu new year and is the largest, most widely celebrated festival in India. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but educating your children about holiday practices other than Christmas will give them a broader worldview and inspire them to gain further knowledge about cultures outside their own. Your local library is a great resource for children’s literature on these holidays, and there are also TV programs from PBS that feature episodes on these traditions. Enjoy the winter holiday season, however you decide to celebrate!
AVOID FIRST-HOME REGRET Considerations Before You Close
Millennials, for the most part, are buying homes far later in life than their parents did. You might think that patience leads to better buying decisions, but statistics demonstrate otherwise. In fact, a recent survey from Bank of the West found that a whopping 68 percent of millennials regret their first real estate purchase. Understanding the reason behind their remorse can help you choose a home you’ll love for years and decades to come. The first mistake many young people make is settling for a property they aren’t in love with. In the rush to buy a home, any home, they see properties with rose-colored glasses. Maybe they overlook an obvious
flaw in the property or settle for a location outside of the area they hoped to live in. During the purchase process, it feels like a compromise that’s worth making to become a homeowner. Once they move in, however, they realize that the home isn’t all they dreamed about. Another common issue is that some first-time buyers don’t realize how much work is takes to maintain a home until they move in. If you’re moving from an apartment where the super is just a phone call away, it’s an adjustment in terms of time and financial commitment. Once you buy a home, you still need to have money for repairs and other ongoing costs. Ignoring these extra costs can put you under financial strain in a hurry. Real life isn’t an HGTV show. Remodeling isn’t quick and easy, and it won’t result in a magic transformation. Many millennials spend too much on their down payments and end up hurting their lifestyles as a result. Is getting that dream home worth having to live hand-to-mouth for a while? It seems that, for many young people, it’s not. It’s fine to favor experiences and flexibility over property and stability, but don’t think you can have your cake and eat it too. These home-buying pitfalls can be avoided by working with a team of professionals who will keep your best interest at heart. At Merlino & Gonzalez, our goal is to help you navigate the process in a way that will leave you with zero regrets. Call us today to find out how we can help.
Waiting for a Sidewalk Repair? DON’T EXPECT A QUICK RESOLUTION
If you own a property with a sidewalk, you know that public tree roots can cause warps and cracks through no fault of your own. The good news is that the city parks department has the Trees and Sidewalks Program in place to repair these cracks for free. The bad news is that you’re going to be waiting a long time for a fix. One Staten Island resident has been waiting since 2007 for the city to come and fix her sidewalk! Needless to say, that’s not quite overnight service. The reason for the delay is simply that the parks department has many more requests than they can handle. There are currently more than 6,000 outstanding sidewalk repair requests across the five boroughs, with an average of 175 added every week. In an effort to make sure available resources are used as wisely as possible, the city ranks damaged sites based on how urgently they need repairs. In effect, that means you’ll have to wait until the damage is borderline catastrophic before the sidewalk will be fixed.
It still doesn’t hurt to call 311 and have the parks department inspect your property so that you’re on file with the Trees and Sidewalks Program. Unless you want to wait for years for a fix, though, you’ll probably have to hire a contractor to repair the damage. After repairs, you can submit a claim for reimbursement to the comptroller’s office. If the city deems that the damage was the result of a city-owned tree, you may be offered a settlement for reasonable repair costs. Nobody should have to deal with an unsightly, potentially dangerous sidewalk that’s no fault of their own, yet it’s an all-too-common problem on Staten Island. If you’re dealing with such a situation and want to know your options, feel free to give our office a call.
HOLIDAY ROAST PRIME RIB MICHELE’S RECIPE CORNER
take a break
• 1 bone-in prime rib (6–7 pounds) • 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
• 2 cups red wine • 4 cups beef stock
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. 30 minutes before cooking, remove roast from fridge and let sit until it reaches room temperature. 2. Heat oven to 350 F. 3. Make small slits in prime rib and stuff with slices of garlic. Liberally season with salt and pepper. 4. Place a rack inside a roasting pan and roast prime rib for 2 hours, until medium-rare. 5. To make au jus, place roasting pan with drippings from roast over 2 burners on high. Add wine and scrape pan as liquid reduces. Add beef stock and cook until reduced by half. Finally, sprinkle in thyme. 6. Slice roast and serve topped with au jus.
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
A Well-Executed Estate Teach Your Kids About Holidays
How to Find a First Home You’ll Love Staten Island’s Sidewalk-Repair Problem Holiday Roast Prime Rib Everything You’ll Need for an Ugly Sweater Christmas
UGLY SWEATER PARTIES
It’s speculated that the first ugly sweater party took place in Vancouver, Canada, back in 2001. Since then, the trend has become one of the most popular holiday party themes. Come Thanksgiving, you’ll start to see racks in all types of clothing stores lined with hideous sweaters. If you’re ready to jump on the ugly-sweater-party bandwagon this Christmas season, here a few things to keep in mind. YOUR VERY OWN UGLY SWEATER Ugly sweaters come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. You can head to H&M or a local thrift store to pick one up. However, if you have a sweater that’s been cozied up for years in the back of your closet or a drawer, now’s your chance to give it new life. Arm yourself with a hot glue gun, thread, and needle, and patch Santa, Rudolph, or Frosty on it. And let it be known that an ugly sweater isn’t complete without sparkles, beads, and sequins galore.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN UGLY SWEATER PARTY? It’s rather simple — slip on your favorite Christmas sweater, gather all your friends and family members, make sure there are plenty of refreshments and games, and you’re guaranteed to have a top-tier party. A few ugly-sweater-themed games that should be on the agenda include an ugly gift exchange, which is similar to the white elephant exchange, except with the gaudiest gifts you can find; an ugly photo booth, complete with terrible, tacky props; and, of course, an ugly sweater contest.
This is the only time of year when slipping into a lurid red sweater with a stuffed Santa sewn on the front is considered trendy. So adorn yourself in the frumpiest, tackiest sweater you can find, and have some fun this December!
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