There are various options for resolving estate disputes. This can be a very confusing and uncomfortable topic for many people. There is so much information out there, it can be overwhelming and difficult to find the right approach. If you are curious about this topic and want to learn more about it, please continue reading.
When settling an estate planning dispute, there are two main approaches:
- The Traditional, Litigation-Based, Approach
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) Approaches, which include:
- Collaborative law
Here we will focus on Mediation since it can be quicker, more simple, and stress-free compared to other approaches.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a mediator (a neutral third party) works with the opposing parties and sometimes their lawyers. The mediator’s goal is to help the opposing parties come to an agreement and settle their dispute. Each party is responsible for his/her own experts, which are regulating and producing information. The goal is to have the least number of meetings possible; usually, two meetings are enough. Mediators go through special training to learn all the techniques required to help both parties to work on their differences and find common ground.
The parties aren’t required to hire lawyers, especially if the lawsuit hasn’t been defined yet. But mediation is often used in settlements before a resolution has been reached at the court. There are many cases when the judge requires that the parties attempt to settle the case off-court, with the help of a mediator.
While it can work perfectly for some people, it has its drawbacks. It can easily fail if:
- There isn’t enough initiative from one or both parties
- One party thinks there is not enough relevant evidence
- One party holds on to their desired income and isn’t ready to compromise
These risks are usually high if the mediation is ordered by the court. It is more likely that some of the parties won’t be cooperative.
If mediation isn’t successful, the parties and their lawyers can just continue with litigation, and the case will go to court.
Mediation in Estate Planning
If you are thinking about using an independent mediator during this process, here are some pros:
- It may reduce the probability of lawsuits in the family
- It helps avoid malpractice claims
- It can improve your satisfaction and make the process more stress-free
- It can prevent future problems and conflicts among family members
Make sure all the information is disclosed, even if it seems unimportant, confidential, or embarrassing. It can be an emotional issue for you, but success is possible only if you trust your moderator. Experts at Heritage Elder Law & Estate Planning state: “We believe that every family is unique and that your individual circumstances and family dynamic should be taken into account when considering your future and that of your estate.” If you are interested in professionals who will also take time to get to know you and your family’s specific needs, be sure to go to their website. Make sure you hire a moderator you are comfortable with, even with some sensitive topics. A good moderator will try to understand your goals and explain all the options to make sure you make the best decision for everybody.
The Biggest Problems
How much better would everything be if we could all try avoiding disputes? Unfortunately, the world isn’t perfect, and sometimes we can be faced with problems within our own family.
Lack of Communication
It’s sad to see how many families are torn by claims, allegations, and litigations that can drag on for years. Not to mention the lawsuits against the attorneys for malpractice. This can really make your life a living hell.
Experts in mediation claim that most of these problems come from a lack of communication and misunderstandings. Mediation can change your family’s experience, by changing the patterns of your communication. The best solution is being honest and discussing things calmly and with respect toward all parties included.
Sometimes informal conflict resolution isn’t possible. Rather than going through stressful lawsuits, you should consider mediation. This way all the parties can agree on some decisions and find a compromising solution. This will result in better family relationships and help communication between family members.
Mediation in conflict resolution has become much more popular in the past decade, especially mediation in estate planning. The important role of mediation has been recognized by clients, estate planners, and lawyers. It has many benefits, clients are more satisfied, and the risk of malpractice claims is reduced. Using a mediator will give realistic and acceptable results for all the key parties.