Merlino & Gonzalez June 2019

June 2019





Mary Young’s Unbelievable Estate Resolution

Ken, ever gracious and honest, told me there was no way the estate would be released without us first tracking down Eileen. He had never dealt with anything like this before, so he told me he’d do some research and get back to me. A few days later, he called me and said he had found a company called HeirSearch that specializes in tracking down long-lost heirs and relatives. I called HeirSearch at 9 a.m. on Feb. 18, 2018. It wasn’t even 2 p.m. on the same day when they called back saying they had found Eileen — yes, our Eileen. Using birth date records and a few other facts, they were able to narrow the possibilities down to a list of eight people. Eileen was the fifth person they called. After confirming her identity, I was given her phone number. At first, I spoke to Eileen’s husband. He expressed some perfectly understandable concerns. “Only good things will come of this,” I assured him. I didn’t know at the time how prophetic those words would be. Soon enough, I received word from Eileen that she was excited to meet us. We agreed she would come to Uncle John’s house in June of that year. From the moment she arrived, we knew she was family. It was an incredible experience for us and equally incredible for her. Eileen never really knew her birth father, had few baby pictures, and didn’t have many relatives to speak of. It was as if an entire portion of her life, a part of her sense of self, had been closed off to her. I think she was probably resigned to the fact that she’d never really know these things. We now see her regularly, we’re great friends, and I speak with her on the phone about once a week. In one fell swoop, she went from having zero cousins to having an extended family numbering well into the triple digits. “You have no idea what you’ve added to my life,” she told me during one of our calls. We all feel the same way about her. Uncle John is the real hero of this story, the force who brought us all together. Without his insistence, it’s likely we would’ve never met Eileen and vice versa. After our reconnection, Eileen visited the mausoleum in New Jersey where John is interned. She placed her hand on his resting place and gave him the message he’d been hoping to hear. “Uncle John,” she said. “I am here.” –Mary Young

We’re very lucky to serve an incredible group of clients and get to learn their stories and know them as people. But few, if any, experiences I’ve had settling estates compare to that of Mary Young’s. I won’t spoil anything about it, except to say that it serves as a reminder of why my job is so special.

My grandparents bought a house on Staten Island in 1915. My uncle John was born there and would die there 95 years later, as he wished, in November, 2017. It was his home from his first days until his last. John never had children of his own, but he was the ultimate family man. It came as no surprise, then, that John wanted the proceeds from his estate split between his nieces and nephews. The tricky part was that one of those nieces had been long-estranged from our family. As the result of a divorce, Eileen had not been in contact with us since her early childhood. None of us knew where she lived or what had become of her. “You have to find her,” Uncle John would often say to me. As executor of his estate, it was my responsibility to do so, but I didn’t know where to start. I met Ken Gonzalez through pure coincidence. As I was working to get Uncle John’s affairs in order, I stumbled across the Merlino & Gonzalez office, which happens to be one street away from John’s house. I saw the sign and walked in. It was just that simple. It didn’t take long speaking with Ken to decide I wanted to work with the firm. I got a great feeling from the moment

I walked in, and that feeling never left during the entire process. Everyone at Merlino & Gonzalez is responsive, caring, and selfless. I realized immediately that their firm was exceptional, but little did I know that a discovery they helped me make not long after would enrich the lives of my entire family.



ROLL THE DICE ON FUN Turn Family Game Night Into a Real Adventure BECOME SUPER: MASKS If your family has ever had a long conversation about who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Superman, then Masks is the RPG for you. Fly into Halcyon City where your family can take on the role of a team of young superheroes. Create your own hero and work together to make the world a better place. Fight supervillains, rescue citizens, and ultimately determine who has the best superpower. SOLVE A MYSTERY: BUBBLEGUMSHOE Did you grow up reading “Nancy Drew”? Are your kids all about BBC’s “Sherlock”? Then Bubblegumshoe is the game for you. This teen sleuth adventure is geared toward younger players, so it’s easier to start than other games on this list. Don’t worry if you’re not a mystery writer; the game comes with prewritten stories for your brilliant characters to solve. The villain might have gotten away with it if it weren’t for your meddling kids!

Has Monopoly caused one too many fights? Are you tired of stockpiling resources in Settlers of Catan? Maybe it’s time to introduce your family to a new kind of game, one where you control the story and a single roll of the dice can change everything. This is the world of tabletop role- playing games (RPGs), where players embark on epic adventures under the supervision of a central Game Master. There are a lot of RPGs out there to choose from; here are a few your whole family can get into. GO ON A QUEST: DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS The first. The biggest. The king of tabletop RPGs. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) has been around since 1974, though shows like “Community” and “Stranger Things” have only recently helped the fantasy game gain mainstream acclaim. There are a lot of rules involved in the gameplay, so D&D can seem overwhelming to new players. But once you become familiar with the game, there are limitless options for characters and quests. How will a human fighter, an elf wizard, and a dwarf cleric save the world? Roll the dice and find out. We pride ourselves on being a country where everyone receives a fair trial. And while that’s not always the case, even the craziest claims still have to be heard in some capacity by a court of law. As you can imagine, this can result in plenty of spooky high jinks in the courtroom. Let’s take a look at some of the more baffling court cases in recent memory. DEAD MAN TALKING In something straight out of a Coen brothers movie, a New York man had to sue The New York Times on three separate occasions to get them to stop reporting that he was dead. In all fairness, it seemed like an honest mistake prolonged by the ineptitude of his public counsel and a whole lot of terrible coincidences all rolled into one. Juan Antonio Arias just so happened to share the same first and last name as one “Juan Arias” who had met his untimely demise. After it was reported in a Times article, the living Arias accidentally had his own date of birth and Social Security number added to the death certificate of his now deceased namesake in a terrible mix-up from the coroner. As a result, he

What are you waiting for? Grab some dice and get the party started!

LAWSUITS FROM BEYOND Let’s Hope There’s a Courtroom in the Afterlife

sued on three occasions after his lawyer missed certain deadlines to turn in proper documents. Thankfully, the issue was resolved, but not before he had his credit cards and Medicaid revoked after appearing to be dead. SOLEMNLY SPOOKED An unnamed New York resident — just what on earth is going on in New York? — claimed that the house they’d recently purchased was horribly and cripplingly haunted by unseen forces. The poltergeist was said to disrupt their daily activity, and the plaintiff was suing on the grounds that the home was notorious in the area for being haunted and had a reputation as such, therefore it should have been disclosed to the buyer before closing. They won. That’s right; the court ruled that the seller misled the plaintiff and should have disclosed the nature of this potentially harmful house. Shockingly enough, this type of thing is required to be disclosed when selling a house in New York. Well, at least a buyer will have peace of mind knowing that they got a sweet new pad and a ghoul for pennies on the dollar.


Many people, especially those with a high net worth, worry about the impact that discussing their estate will have on their children. They wonder if it may cause interfamily strife or lead to children who loaf around waiting for their inheritance to arrive rather than pursuing their own income. In most cases, these fears are unfounded or blown way out of proportion. When it comes to estate planning, lying or keeping secrets is usually a recipe for disaster. Now, that is not to say you need to discuss every aspect of your estate plan with your heirs, down to the dollars they will receive and the days they will receive them. How much you divulge is up to you, but effectively communicating with heirs and family members is an essential part of planning your estate. Certain designations — executor, power of attorney, medical power of attorney — should be discussed with the person who will take on that role. It’s essential they are willing and able to handle the responsibility, and it’s hard for them to do that if you don’t ask if they want it. WHAT TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR ESTATE WITH YOUR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN

The issue of inheritance can be a trickier matter. Distributing your assets is not as simple as assigning percentages to certain beneficiaries and calling it a day. You need to think about when that money should be allocated and under what conditions. Tools like trusts allow you to release money for specific purposes, like college funding, rather than in one lump sum with no strings attached. In certain instances, your heirs will benefit more from receiving some of their inheritance earlier in life. After all, they may be well into their 60s by the time you or your spouse passes away. The bottom line is there is no universal answer for how to discuss your estate with your heirs. It will vary based on your circumstances and desires. What is true no matter your situation, though, is that some form of communication about your estate is essential. Keeping mum will only lead to gossip and speculation. Are you ready to start talking about your estate? Call us today to begin your path down our Estate Planning Road Map.


take a break


• 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, or 6 tbsp ghee • 3 russet potatoes (about 1/2 lb.), peeled • 1 tsp Kosher salt, plus more to taste

• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste • Pinch of cayenne pepper, plus more to taste


1. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until foamy. Reduce heat if needed to avoid browning. Skim off white milk solids to make clarified butter (ghee). Transfer to a bowl and reserve. (This step won’t be needed if using ghee.) 2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate potatoes. Transfer to a large bowl of cold water and stir until water becomes cloudy. Rinse potatoes under cold water, then squeeze out liquid using cheesecloth or a kitchen towel, removing as much moisture as possible. Season potatoes. 3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat ghee to medium-high. Add potatoes and cook until a crust forms underneath, about 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, break up potatoes and continue to cook, adding more ghee if potatoes begin to stick. 4. Cook until golden brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels; season with salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Serve.

718-698-2200 3

394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314




An Estate Unlike Any Other Wizards, Superheroes, and Detectives Crazy Lawsuits Surrounding the Dearly Departed Discussing Your Estate With Heirs No. 1 Dad Hash Browns Make the Ultimate Summer Treat

COOL FOR THE SUMMER 7 Tips for the Perfect Popsicle

Ready to get started? Use the above tips to mix up the delicious guilt- free popsicle recipe below.

There’s nothing like an icy treat to cool down with on a hot summer day. But ice cream and store-bought popsicles tend to be full of processed sugar and artificial flavors. Beat the heat with a homemade treat instead! Here are some tips for creating the perfect homemade popsicles. • Invest in a popsicle mold. You can make popsicles with ice cube trays or paper cups, but an inexpensive popsicle mold can completely change the aesthetic of your popsicles, making them even more fun and delicious. • Use a pastry bag or freezer bag with a corner cut off to easily fill popsicle molds without making a mess. • When filling the molds, leave a 1/4 inch of space at the top. The mixture will expand when it freezes. • If your popsicle mold comes with a snap-on lid, leave the lid unsealed. Opening the lid when the molds are frozen can crack the brittle plastic. • Turn your freezer to the coldest setting and put your molds at the back of the freezer. The quicker your popsicles freeze, the creamier they will be because fewer ice crystals will form. • When you’re ready to eat your popsicles, carefully run the molds under warm water until they loosen. Gently wiggle the popsicle back and forth until it easily slides free. • Store uneaten popsicles in airtight freezer bags to prevent freezer burn.


Ingredients • 2 cups berries • 2 tbsp honey • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt

Directions 1. Blend berries in a food processor or blender until nearly liquified. Feel free to use your favorite kind of berry for this recipe. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries all work great! 2. Pour berry mixture into large bowl. Stir in honey, and then gently mix in yogurt.

3. Pour mixture into molds and freeze for 4–6 hours. 4. Enjoy with your family on a hot summer day! 4

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