Merlino & Gonzalez July 2018

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July 2018





My Relationship With M&G

John is also hugely generous. He volunteers his time with the Staten Island YMCA, and he’s a fixture in our community. Over the years, I’ve asked John to sponsor numerous events and fundraisers. Without fail, he’s more than happy to help. Recently, I asked him to lend a hand with a Young Professionals Network event. Unsurprisingly, he was more than willing. That sort of selflessness and community involvement proves just what a stand-up guy he is. Last year, I served as the President of the Staten Island Board of Realtors, and John served on the board as a non-Realtor director. It was a pleasure working with John to help raise the standards of real estate professionals in our area, and he was never shy to provide his perspective as an attorney. Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive numerous accreditations and awards. I’m a member of both the National Association of Realtors and the New York Association of Realtors. Additionally, I’m certified as an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR), Certified Negotiation Expert (CNE), and a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES). I’m also green certified and qualified to train other Realtors. As you can probably tell from this long list of acronyms, I pride myself in always striving to become better as a realtor. All of the work I do is to help my clients achieve the best outcomes. The team at Merlino & Gonzalez feels the exact same way as I do. That’s why I’m so honored to work with them. If you need a real estate attorney in the Staten Island area, look no further than Merlino & Gonzalez. Greg Sokol

Greg Sokol, the downtown office manager for Cangiano Estates, has been working with us since the very earliest days of our firm. Over that time, he’s become more than just a realtor we love working with; he’s become a friend. We’re honored to work alongside realtors like Greg and wanted to give him a little space to share his story with you. I hope you enjoy it.

During my more than two decades as a realtor, I’ve learned that it’s important to have your clients work with people who have the same level of ethical and moral standards as you do. I want my clients to have the best possible experiences when they buy or sell properties with me. That requires working with great inspectors, lenders, and attorneys. When somebody asks me for a recommendation, I only suggest people I know and trust. And there’s no better legal team in our area than the folks at Merlino & Gonzalez.

I can say that with no shortage of experience, as I’ve known John Merlino for 17 years now. Real estate transactions can often get hectic and stressful, but John remains calm even during the height of confusion. He listens, assesses the situation, and figures out how to move forward in the best possible manner. He serves as a guide for his clients, making sure they navigate the real estate process without hitting any potholes.



IS YOUR CHILD BEING BULL I ED? CHANGE IN FRIENDS There are bound to be changes in friend groups throughout your child’s life, but that doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t take notice when this happens. When a child expresses disinterest in spending time with specific people, it could be a sign of bullying. Connecting with other parents who have children in the same circle could be a way to gauge the pulse of your child’s friend group. CONFIDENCE ISSUES Bullying has the potential to drop kids into a volatile cycle of confidence-killing self-talk. Bullying may produce external damage, but what goes on internally can be catastrophic for children. The continually progressing, technology-based environment our children live in nearly outpaces their ability to adjust and cope. Children often internalize their emotions, and when they are being bullied by someone online, their distress can be even harder to detect. The best way to be aware of how your children are feeling is to talk to them openly about their social interactions both online and offline. Summer is the perfect opportunity to discuss these issues with your child because they likely will be relaxed, comfortable, and out of school, where bullying often occurs. Then they can approach the new school year with confidence and self-worth. What parent doesn’t want that? Warning Signs You Can’t Ignore seen it used for luxury properties where buyers and sellers are more amenable to dealing with risk and volatility. In the future, however, it’s not hard to see it spreading to more corners of the real estate market. When it comes to selling, you can list your property with bitcoin as a payment option, but it’s not without particular concerns. Bitcoin fluctuates wildly, so you’ll need to constantly check the markets and update your pricing. Last December, a single bitcoin reached a peak value of $19,000. Today, that number is closer to $7,000. WILL BITCOIN TAKE OVER REAL ESTATE? The jury is still out on this one. Proponents, like Barbara Corcoran from “Shark Tank,” believe that cryptocurrency is the future of real estate transactions. Detractors say that it’s simply too volatile to ever be widely used. Whatever the future holds, if you are considering including crypto options in your next real estate transaction, you should speak to an experienced real estate attorney like those at Merlino & Gonzalez to make sure you go through the process correctly.

Somewhere along the line, our society accepted bullying as a social norm for children. “How can kids learn to cope with the real world if they can’t handle a bully?” is a common misguided justification. Kids who don’t meet the standards of what they are socially expected to be aren’t accepted among their peers. Rather, they are treated like emotional punching bags for anyone deemed more culturally acceptable. But the life of a child is truly a special force in this world, and just because someone differs from physical, social, or cultural normativity doesn’t give anyone the right to treat them poorly. Differences should be celebrated, and bullying needs to be eradicated. The best way we can start is by making an effort to notice bullying and put a stop to it. Here are three warning signs. HEADACHES AND STOMACH ACHES Anxiety is a complex emotion that tends to manifest itself in physical ways. If you notice your child has stress-related symptoms like headaches, ask them about their emotional well-being. An open-ended question like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t been feeling well a lot lately — can you tell me more about that?” will help open lines of communication. Even if you’re not plugged into the worlds of finance and technology, you’ve probably read a little bit about bitcoin recently. The cryptocurrency has risen from the ranks of an obscure, niche interest to a topic on everyone’s lips. Many companies, from accounting firms to retailers, have begun to accept bitcoin as a payment method. Real estate has also been affected by the trend. As of the time of writing, at least 140 properties listed in New York incorporate bitcoin in their listing information. With that in mind, there’s no better time than now to understand how the radical new currency will shape the real estate market in the coming years. WHAT IS BITCOIN? In the simplest terms, bitcoin is the most popular form of cryptocurrency. Unlike traditional currencies, cryptocurrencies are decentralized, meaning they don’t have to rely on a centralized banking authority for authentication. Instead, they use a technology called blockchain, which stores information across a vast peer-to-peer network. CAN I BUY OR SELL A HOME IN BITCOIN? The short answer is “yes, but ...” On the buyer’s side, you’ll have to find a seller willing to take cryptocurrency as payment. Thus far, we’ve mostly

CAN I BUY OR SELL A HOME WITH BITCOIN? Real Estate in the Age of Cryptocurrency



Chatbots have been all the rage in the customer service world for a few years now, but we were still shocked to read about a chatbot that can help you write a will. The bot’s name is Ailira, and it was created by Adrian Cartland, a taxation lawyer from South Australia. While this story may sound like something from one of John’s favorite sci-fi universes, it’s already been used by hundreds of people to make their will easily and on the cheap. Chatbots are just the latest in a series of innovations that allow people to make DIY wills. LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer offer similar services, though they don’t yet have any fancy artificial intelligence (AI) avatars on staff. Computer-generated wills may seem like a convenient option, but they come with a lot of pitfalls. If you aren’t careful, you could leave your will vulnerable to being challenged and invalidated. Each state has its own specific requirements for the creation and execution of a last will and testament. Should your computer-

generated will fail to meet state requirements, the probate court will likely not honor it. Your assets will then be subject to disposition by the court in accordance with the laws of intestacy. Furthermore, chatbot- and computer-created wills lack the legal knowledge of a professional estate planning attorney. Your estate planning attorney will sit down with you and carefully go over your assets, debts, and desires for after your death in order to recommend the best estate planning options. A chatbot or computer program, by comparison, will simply give you the option to make a specific legal form and ask you basic information. As such, your estate could be subject to immense taxation. There’s no denying that technology has made much of our lives easier, but we’d urge caution when considering a digital will provider. You might be comfortable asking Alexa for the weather forecast, but would you ask her to protect your wishes after you’re gone? KIELBASA KABOBS MICHELE’S RECIPE CORNER

take a break

This take on the classic Italian sausage and peppers uses fully cooked Polish kielbasa so you can prep the kabobs and bring them to your next cookout.

• 2 pounds fully cooked smoked kielbasa • 2 large onions • 2 green bell peppers • 3 red bell peppers • 2 cloves garlic, minced INGREDIENTS

• 1/4 cup olive oil • Salt and pepper, to taste


4. Thread onto skewers, alternating ingredients. 5. Brush with oil mixture and grill, covered, 10–12 minutes. [NOTE: If using bamboo skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes before threading to prevent burning.]

1. Heat grill to medium. 2. In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper. 3. Cut pepper, onion, and kielbasa into 1-inch chunks.



394 Manor Road Staten Island, NY 10314




A Realtor’s Perspective on Our Firm How to Tell if Your Kids Are Being Bullied Bitcoin and the Future of Real Estate The Dangers of DIY Wills Kielbasa Kabobs Take Your S’mores to the Next Level

STRAWBERRY S’MORE-CAKE If you really want to wow your guests at the next bonfire, try your hand at this creative take on the summertime classic. Gooey s’mores meet fresh strawberry shortcake in a dessert that’s as delicious as it is original. Find the whole recipe, including tips on making the perfect shortcake, at S’MOREO A simple but memorable twist on the campfire classic. Grab a box of Oreo cookies, pull a cookie apart, and use that in place of your graham cracker. The cream filling will pair nicely with the chocolate and toasted marshmallow. S’MORES MILKSHAKE Too hot for a campfire? Cool down with a s’mores milkshake! The trick is to lightly toast the marshmallows in the oven so they mix well with the other ingredients in the blender. Get the recipe at milkshake to enjoy this sweet treat even in the heat of summer. It’s the simple recipe that opens the door for creative interpretations of the classic s’more. Be adventurous this summer and see what great new s’mores you can create! CAN I HAVE S’MORE? Creative Twists on the Campfire Classic

You’re just three ingredients away from the perfect summertime treat: chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows. The s’more is a fan favorite on camping trips and at backyard bonfires alike. Though they say you can’t improve perfection, we’ve found a few creative twists on the classic treat that will make your summer a little sweeter. THE ELVIS A campfire snack fit for a king — of rock ’n’ roll, that is. This s’more pays homage to Elvis Presley’s love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Swap out the chocolate bar for a peanut butter cup candy and add a few slices of fresh banana between the graham cracker and marshmallow. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can even add some bacon. S’MORES IN A JAR Here are s’mores you can enjoy all year long. Layers of crushed graham cracker, melted marshmallow, and creamy chocolate turn a simple jar into a great dessert! Learn how to make the perfect s’mores on the go at 4

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