Merlino & Gonzalez - February 2020

February 2020




MEET STEPHANIE DiANGELO Her Perspective on Life Enriches Ours

I believe my passion for investigating how things work and learning in general stems from a lifelong hobby of photography. While I was growing up, my parents avidly snapped pictures and recorded videos of me and my brother, and I’ve followed suit. In elementary school, you could always spot me with a Kodak camera in my pocket, and since then, photography has become a way for me to express myself and my creativity. I go out on the street and photograph whatever moves me, but I also have a real love for event photography. There’s something so special about recording life events through pictures. Those photographs become windows to the past, a way to recall special moments in life. That’s a powerful thing.

Stephanie DiAngelo is one of our newest paralegals. Since starting in August, she has charmed her way into the hearts of clients and colleagues alike. Her perpetually positive outlook and can-do attitude are a winning combination and bring a lot of value to what we do. Next time you’re in the office, take a minute to stop and chat with her. You’ll be glad you did. –Kenneth A. Gonzalez I was born and raised in Staten Island, and even though I’ve spent most of my life in New York, I’ve made sure to live it with plenty of variety. Prior to jumping into real estate law, I held various customer service jobs, including retail and front desk positions. But the most exciting job experience I had was in interior design. I love helping people find ways to feel inspired by the space they live in. So when I was looking to change things up, real estate law was naturally enticing. While I have a lot of experience with how professional offices operate, I am a newcomer to real estate law and still have a lot to learn. It’s been such a joy to discover that some of my best educational moments have come from our clients. Hearing the questions they ask helps me work on finding solutions for them and teaches me about the questions I should be asking in return. This kind of dynamic is what makes lawyers so effective at what they do; they know what someone needs before the person even realizes they need it themselves. I also connect with our clients because I used to think about law the same way most of them do when they first reach out for help. It can be very intimidating. Real estate law can get overwhelming when you don’t completely understand it. But in our office, everyone takes the work they do very seriously, and they do it in such a positive way that you can’t help but feel you’re in the very best of hands. Our approach is calming for both clients and staff.

My love for photography also comes from the traveling I’ve done. I’ve studied abroad in Italy and have visited a lot of states with my family. My boyfriend, Tom, and I strive to do as much exploring as possible, and our goal is to visit every single state at least once. These experiences have helped me become more understanding of the world outside my own perspective. When it comes to working in law and helping people through some of the most challenging decisions they may ever have to make so far, I’ve found my unique perspective invaluable. I can’t wait to keep connecting with people and doing my best to help them. –Stephanie DiAng e lo



LEAP INTO 2020 Facts About the Leap Year WHO The odds of being born on Feb. 29 are 1 in 1,461. That means that of the roughly seven billion people in the world, only about five million of them are “leaplings.” The number of leaplings currently living in the U.S. is roughly 187,000. Some famous leaplings include motivational speaker Tony Robbins, rapper Ja Rule, and singer Mark Foster of Foster the People. However, the most famous leapling is probably Superman. When you invent a super-being, you might as well give him a super-birthday. WHERE Anthony, Texas/New Mexico (a single town that straddles the two states’ borders), claims the title “Leap Year Capital of the World.” The city throws one massive birthday party for all leaplings but invites everyone to join the celebration. Two leapling neighbors from Anthony began the tradition in 1988, and it’s blossomed into a festival with thousands of participants every four years. It includes banquets, hot air balloons, a carnival, concerts, parades, and more. When you have four years to plan in between each shindig, there’s time to go big. Celebrate this leap year by doing something unusual or new. It’s a special day that doesn’t occur often, so make the most of it by doing something you’ll talk about for another four years.

Like the Olympics and presidential elections, leap years only occur once every four years, which is why many people look forward to Feb. 29. But there’s a lot that you might not know about this quirk on the calendar. WHY To keep the calendar in sync with Earth’s orbit around the sun, an extra day is added to it every four years. Earth takes exactly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to orbit the sun. Those extra hours add up over time, so another calendar day becomes necessary. But a leap year doesn’t occur every four years. Adding that extra day still doesn’t quite keep Earth on track, so the calendar skips leap years that occur during century years not divisible by 400. For example, 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 won’t be.


In a 2008 survey conducted by the National Trust in Britain, children were more likely to correctly identify a Dalek from “Doctor Who” than a barn owl. Likewise, a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8–18-year-olds in the U.S. found that the average youth spends more than 53 hours a week engaged with entertainment media. These statistics, coupled with growing concerns that children are spending less time outdoors, are leading to terms like “nature deficit disorder” and global initiatives to get kids outside. Why is contact with the outdoors so important? Researchers are answering this question by studying the benefits of time spent in nature. One benefit is that outdoor time helps kids understand boundaries and learn how to assess risk. As naturalist, author, and broadcaster Stephen Moss puts it, “Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk-reward.” Not to mention, time in nature may help improve focus for hyperactive kids. In one national study of youths by the University of Illinois, participants’ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms were reduced after spending time in a green setting versus a more urban one. This may be due to the fact that natural environments call upon our “soft fascination,” a less exhausting type of focus than what is required by urban environments. Emotional benefits were discovered too, including reduced aggression, increased happiness, and improved self-esteem. Beyond just getting outside, the type of contact we have with nature also matters. Visits to nature centers and watching “Planet Earth” are two ways to experience the outdoors. But research points specifically

to the importance of free play in the natural world: unstructured outdoor time when children can explore and engage with their natural surroundings with no curriculum, lesson, or activity to complete. Ever notice how kids are fascinated by the simplest things? A child visits a rose garden, but before they even get to the flowers, they become captivated by a leaf on the ground or an ant crawling on their shoe. Children are born naturalists. These are the moments we need to recapture. Take a page out of that kid’s book, and as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses — or leaves or ants — with no checklist and no plan, just time spent playing outside.



If you have things of value to pass on to your loved ones, then it’s important to make sure you do everything you can to ensure those assets are properly handled after you’re gone. Even though it seems like a plotline reserved for dramatic movies, inheritance theft is a real crime that occurs far too often, and victims suffer real anger and embarrassment. It’s even worse when it’s caused by people they thought they could trust. So, take these steps to protect yourself and your loved ones against inheritance theft. MAKE AN ESTATE PLAN. Documenting your desires for your assets is the best step in preventing people from making claims against your wishes. This is especially true if you hire a trusted estate attorney to assist you with the process. TRUST YOUR EXECUTOR AND TRUSTEE. Choose a completely trustworthy person to act on your behalf. It’s also essential to distribute copies of your documents to at least one other heir so information can’t be withheld by a single party. Consider requiring your executor and trustee to retain the services of an estate attorney themselves.

KEEP EVERYTHING SAFE. Make sure all your legal and financial documents are kept in a secure location, like a safe deposit box or a fire-resistant safe at home. If you keep documents at home, keep them hidden from everyone but a trusted few. Furthermore, you should always create digital backups should something happen to the physical copies. INFORM THOSE INVOLVED. If you make changes to your documents, then it’s always best to let those affected know about them. Surprise creates an opportunity for emotion, which can lead to unsavory behavior. It’s also important to keep people updated so they know what to look for when they are no longer able to ask you. It can be difficult to consider the possibility that someone you know and trust might be harboring ill intentions for you and your assets. Taking these steps is the best way to find out who shares your intentions and who is willing to see them through on your behalf.


take a break


• 4 tbsp butter • 4 tbsp olive oil • 1 tbsp minced garlic • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined • 1/2 tsp oregano • 1/2 cup dry white wine

• 1/4 cup lemon juice • 8 oz cooked linguine • 1/4 cup parsley DIRECTIONS

1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp of butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 2. Add shrimp and oregano, stirring frequently until shrimp is pink. Remove shrimp from skillet. 3. Add wine and lemon juice to skillet and bring the mixture to a boil. 4. Stir in remaining butter and olive oil and cook until butter is melted. 5. Add cooked shrimp to skillet and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. 6. In a serving bowl, top cooked linguine with shrimp mixture. Garnish with parsley and serve.

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Get to Know Stephanie DiAngelo Learn All About Leap Year Stop and Smell the Roses Protect Against Inheritance Theft Easy Shrimp Scampi A Slippery Crime

STEALING MISS HELEN ‘Ocean’s 3’ Attempt a High-Stakes Heist

The aquarium staff was grateful to have Miss Helen back unharmed, despite her ordeal. “She’s a tough little horn shark, I’ll tell you that,” affirmed Jamie Shank, the assistant husbandry director at the aquarium. NO MINOR CRIME While many animal lovers might disagree, animals are considered personal property, so stealing them is a crime of theft, not kidnapping. The penalties for stealing animals vary depending on each state’s laws, and some states have specific laws regarding animal theft. In Texas, larceny law designates the theft of property valued between $1,500–$20,000 as a felony. In the case of Miss Helen, who’s valued by the aquarium at $2,000, the thieves committed a felony. Also, transporting certain animals requires special permits, which led to additional charges against the three thieves. The Animal Welfare Act, which was adopted in 1966, is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. Interestingly, it only applies to warm-blooded animals, so if Miss Helen had needed further protection, she would be left out in the cold.

On a hot summer day in late July 2018, three people entered Miss Helen’s home, forcibly removed her, put her in a stroller, and ran toward their getaway vehicle. This might sound like a typical kidnapping story, but Miss Helen is no ordinary person. She is a 16-inch horn shark living at the San Antonio Aquarium. Fortunately, their fishy behavior didn’t go unnoticed, and someone alerted the aquarium staff. One perpetrator drove away with Miss Helen in tow, but the other two were stopped by aquarium staff, later confessing to their involvement. Thanks to some observant witnesses and aquarium surveillance, police were able to identify the third thief and obtain a warrant to search his house. As it turned out, he had an extensive aquarium in his home and possibly hoped to add Miss Helen to his collection. After being identified, Miss Helen was returned home safely. 4

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