Trusts, Wills & Estates Disputes -
5 Tips How to Use Mediation for Family Dispute Resolution
The death of a loved one is never easy, and a drawn-out court battle will hardly make the situation better. When questions over inheritance arise, consider adopting mediation rather than litigation. Your family can use mediation to:
1. Eliminate Trusts, Estates, and Written Ambiguities
Trusts and estates disputes usually arise because the will in question uses ambiguous language. The deceased may have ordered his or her estate to be divided "equally" among a group of inheritors without specifying how this division would be accomplished. Say the deceased owned four paintings and left them to be divided between four heirs, but one painting was considerably more valuable than any of the others. Giving each heir one painting would not be fair, but how else to divide them? The heirs could sell all four paintings and split the profits evenly, but what if one of them does not want to sell? A mediator can lay out all of the possible options to heirs, helping them to resolve trusts disputes of this kind.
2. Define the Estates'/Probate Stakeholders
The greatest challenge in an estate dispute is often figuring out who has the right to decide. While most people will agree that surviving spouses and children should have a say in adjudicating the will, in-laws are a trickier matter. The deceased's daughter- or son-in-law may feel that she or he was a veritable part of the family and thus deserves influence. Even if the deceased hasn't named this person as an heir, he or she may still expect some control over which heir gets what. Mediation allows families to address these issues early. Each family member can make his or her case to the mediator, explaining what qualifies him or her to adjudicate the will. The mediator will then propose an equitable solution to the family. Resolving questions of influence at the outset limits the potential for conflict and increases the chance that everyone will accept the final decision.
3. Keep It Confidential
The public visibility of litigation is uncomfortable in any scenario, but it is particularly unwelcome during trusts and estates disputes. The inheritors may not want their friends and neighbors to know that they have inherited part of an estate, fearing that they will be taken advantage of. Moreover, if the dispute turns ugly, no one wants their angry or unreasonable behavior to be preserved on public record. Mediation, however, can be easily kept out of the public eye. Simply instruct the mediator for trusts and estates not to repeat anything he or she hears, and as long as there is no evidence of criminal wronging, your secrets will be safe.
4. Avoid Hard Feelings
Combat is never conducive to a happy family, but litigation is inherently combative. Even if you go into a court room with the best intentions, you may end up alienating your family members by the end of the dispute. By contrast, mediation is collaborative in nature. You will be asked to speak face-to-face to your relatives throughout the process, explaining your feelings to each other and working together to find a solution. Many family members come out of mediation disputes feeling closer than ever, and are more likely to report long-term satisfaction with the agreement.
5. Accommodate Inflexible Schedules
Trusts and estates disputes often involve people living in different parts of the country with different work schedules, resources, and family constraints. Resolving the dispute through litigation requires the family to appear in court on a day consistent with the court's busy schedule. Mediation hearings, on the other hand, can be arranged according to the family's needs. It isn't even necessary that everyone meet at the same time and place, though meeting together is ideal given the benefits of face-to-face mediation.
How to Hire a Trusts, Wills and Estates Family Law Mediator
Settle the Dispute Group resolves estate disputes, divorce cases, and a wide range of other issues through mediation and arbitration. Our ADR firm helps families resolve complex litigation, family mediation and cases in probate.