Merlino & Gonzalez - August 2020

August 2020





By the time we were ready to finalize and settle everything, the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing in the U.S. Shutdowns were happening left and right, travel was becoming dangerous, and I was feeling more and more dread about everything. I was told that under normal circumstances, the entire process could take up to 18 months, and we were well beyond “normal circumstances.” Even the real estate agent who was helping me list my aunt’s house ended up contracting the virus! He’s made a full recovery since, but early on, it seemed that everything that could go wrong was about to go wrong, and I wasn’t able to be there when it did. Luckily, I was pleasantly mistaken. From the time I hired Merlino & Gonzalez to the time we finished with my aunt’s estate, only 12 months had passed, and everything went off without a hitch. Ken and his team set things up so that I could review and execute everything necessary from the safety of my own home almost 1,000 miles away. I was able to sign papers, get these notarized at my bank, and send everything to be taken care of without any fear of mistakes or delay. Their turnaround speed was beyond impressive. And most importantly, throughout it all, they took the time to explain documents, walk through processes, and make sure I was okay with how things were being handled. Now that all is said and done, I can say with confidence that this process was an incredible way to honor my aunt’s life and the legacy she wanted to leave for her family. Many of us were treated to some heartwarming surprises in her will, and that’s exactly the way she wanted it. With everything going on in the world right now, this process could have been the headache and heartache that it’s often made out to be. Instead, Merlino & Gonzalez found a way to thrive through hardship, and I’ll always be grateful to them for it. –John Schulz

John hired us to probate and settle his aunt’s estate in New York including the sale of her home, which went into contract just as the coronavirus shutdowns were starting to take effect. To add fuel to the fire, John lives all the way in Georgia, which means travel was a safety concern and everything had to be settled remotely. But we knew we could find a way to help him through the process, just as we would for anyone else or under more normal circumstances.

My late aunt was a wonderful woman with deep roots in the Staten Island community. She was a much-loved school teacher and lived in the same house for her entire life, her parents having bought it in the 1920s. My family and I have a lot of fond memories of visiting my aunt and that house, and I was fortunate enough to travel from my home just outside Atlanta to see her one last time in March 2019 before she passed in May 2019 at the age of 92. Although my aunt remained in the same home her entire life, the rest of our family left the area long ago, so no one lived locally to take care of her estate after her passing. Being close with her, I volunteered to be the executor of her estate, even though I had never done so for anyone before. I spent the remaining months after her passing in 2019 traveling back and forth to her house to get everything ready to go, but I knew I needed to find a local estate firm that could help me with the rest of the process. The first person I tried was a recommendation through my aunt’s bank, but when I called him, I was immediately put off — he made it sound like he didn’t have the time or interest in helping me. I knew I needed to find someone else. The second recommendation for Kenneth Gonzalez came from my aunt’s accountant. I cold-called Ken and he took immediate, caring initiative to learn more about my aunt and her estate — I knew I had found the right fit.




Are you thinking about donating your kids’ old clothes or that slow cooker you haven’t used in months? Though donating your unwanted items is a great thing to do, amid the pandemic, many people have not considered the future of secondhand shopping and charity-based thrift stores like Goodwill. In 2018, Goodwill funded nearly $5.3 billion in charitable services, like educational assistance, job training, and work placements. But now, Goodwill and similar organizations are facing a unique problem: They’re receiving too many donations. To prevent your items from ending up in a landfill, consider the following before you donate. Under the circumstances, this situation is understandable. Thanks to nationwide stay-at-home orders, many took advantage of their newfound spare time to spring-clean and subsequently donate unwanted items to charity. However, with the confusion about how long the COVID-19 virus can live on clothing, secondhand shoppers have been staying home, worried about the health risks of buying used goods.

Instead, it’s sent to discount outlets and then into global markets. However, Mexican traders, who account for 30% of business at thrift stores close to the U.S. southern border, and Kenya, the world’s largest buyer of unsold secondhand clothes, have stopped buying during the economic shutdown. Meanwhile, some good-intentioned Americans are leaving their goods outside thrift stores’ front doors, not realizing that without enough space to house the excess donations, many of these thrift stores will have to pay disposal fees, costing the business potential revenue and sending your items into local landfills. However, Goodwill still wants your donations! You just might have to hold on to your items for a little bit. Check to see if your local thrift stores are open for donations. Many recommend waiting until the influx slows down, but others have expanded their inventory storage and are ready to keep up. Just make sure to follow their guidelines on acceptable items because any broken or worn items only add to their costs. Happy donating!

Famously, thrift stores still keep unsold goods out of landfills. Up to 75% of Goodwill’s merchandise, for example, isn’t sold in their stores.

SKIP THE STUDENT DEBT 3 Ways to Pay for College That Aren’t Loans

are helping their kids look for grants is the Federal Student Aid website:

Work-Study Depending on your child’s financial need, their college or university may be able to set them up with a part-time position with an hourly rate on campus. Work-study positions are often community service oriented and/or matched with the student’s field of study, and the jobs in these programs may be on or off campus. Alternatively, students can also look for other on-campus jobs that aren’t part of a work-study program. Before the school year starts, many schools post job openings for positions like computer lab assistants or event caterers. Private Scholarships There is no shortage of private scholarships. The challenge is finding and applying for them. This can take time, but it’s often worth the effort. If you can’t find any scholarships your child is eligible for online, then try using an app like Scholly. It’s designed to help students and parents find and apply for scholarships without having to search all over the internet. Another great resource is your student’s high school guidance counselor. They often have resources about local and regional scholarships that may be worth looking into.

We all know how expensive college can be. The bills can pile up fast, and in many cases, paying that debt off can take years, if not decades, especially if private loans are involved. That said, if you have kids who are getting ready to graduate high school, then don’t let the cost of higher education scare you away. If you can’t pay out of pocket, you can help your child apply for loans, but if you’re looking to mitigate debt, or eliminate it entirely, here are some other popular options. Grants Grants are similar to scholarships in that they don’t need to be repaid. Many colleges, states, and other organizations award grants based on a number of factors, like academic standing and the income of one or both parents as reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as FAFSA. A great starting point for parents who



Prepare Your Kids for Fiscal Responsibility

of having money), save some of it (to learn the concept of long- term goals), and pay a little tax on it (to learn the concept that not all their money belongs to them). You can accomplish this by withholding some of their allowance and investing it on their behalf. Make it clear that money is the result of hard work and have them start doing chores to earn money and understand this concept. High School This is a critical time to establish financial collaboration. Encourage your kids to secure a part-time job to help pay for things like car insurance and cell phone bills. Hold them accountable for sharing some of those costs, and when they receive their paychecks, educate them on the best way to split it up, just like you did with their elementary school allowance. College As your child approaches adulthood, they’ll need extra guidance on the realities of handling money and other financial concepts. Make sure they understand how credit works, how to use credit cards wisely, what taxes are, and how to navigate bank accounts. Use your own experiences, both good and bad, to explain how financial troubles can easily come about if false understanding and inadequate preparation occur.

Have you ever talked to your kids about money? You may not be able to teach a preschooler the complexities of credit, but starting at an early age, you can begin educating your kids on the important role that money plays in life, thus giving them the foundation to succeed later on. Preschool You can start talking about money with your kids when they are as young as 2 or 3 years old by helping them understand simple concepts. Explain that everything costs money, from the food they eat to the house they live in. Try not to shower them with an abundance of toys all at once so they start understanding the concept that pleasures in life are earned and not always readily given. Elementary School Giving allowance will help your kids understand the concept of money. Encourage them to spend some of it (to learn the joy


take a break


• 2 large fresh peaches, diced or sliced • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced • 1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved • 1 cup corn • 6 cups arugula, packed

• • •

8 oz penne or fusilli pasta

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

• 1/2 tsp sea salt • Pepper, to taste •

2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese


1. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta for approximately 9 minutes or until al dente. Drain pasta and place in a separate bowl. 2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta and toss with the feta cheese. 3. Add peaches, red onions, tomatoes, corn, and arugula to the pasta mixture. Lightly toss to mix well. Add more olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

718-698-2200 3

394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314


718-698-2200 | WE KEEP YOU ON THE RIGHT PATH We Won’t Let Coronavirus Slow the Services Your Family Needs Page 1 Are Your Thrift Store Donations Being Thrown Away? How to Pay for College Without Loans Page 2 How to Have the ‘Money Talk’ With Your Kids Peach and Arugula Pasta Salad Page 3 Exercise Your Way to a Clean Home Page 4 INSIDE THIS ISSUE

Turn Household Chores Into Effective Exercise YOUR ‘CLEAN’ WORKOUT ROUTINE

Everyone knows how labor-intensive cleaning can be. A long day of scrubbing down your house is a great way to work your muscles and get your blood pumping, so crank up some tunes, grab a mop, and get ready to transform your cleaning routine into a great workout.

keep your toes pointed straight ahead and your knees bent at 90-degree angles.

• Pick Up: Instead of simply bending over to pick up toys or clothes, do a squat with every item you grab. Remember to use your legs, not your back. You can also do squats while unloading the dishwasher or with any other chore that involves repeated bending. • Wipe Down: Whether you’re wiping windows or scrubbing appliances, do big, exaggerated arm circles until your muscles start to burn and make sure you’re switching arms as you go. • Cook: It’s not cleaning, but it’s still a chore with useful downtime. While food is simmering or thawing in the microwave, do some pushups, situps, or planks to get your muscles moving. You can implement dozens of exercises to turn mundane activities into beneficial workouts. Some chores will burn more calories than others, but every bit of activity helps. Now’s the time to work your way to a cleaner house and a healthier you.

To get physical benefits from cleaning, you need to turn up the intensity of your methods. Exaggerate your motions, pick up your pace, and keep your abs tight and knees flexed. Nearly any chore can be turned into an exercise, but here are some ideas to get you started.

• Vacuum: Vacuum briskly nonstop for at least 20

minutes, switching arms as you go. For an added challenge, do lunges as you vacuum and remember to 4

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