Few issues are more contentious than deciding “who gets what” when creating an estate plan. Fights over terms in a will and intentions of an elder relative often lead to bitter disagreement and feuding that can permanently ruin family relationships. It goes without saying that everything possible should be pursued to ensure these situations are resolved in as efficient a manner as possible.
That is where mediation comes in.
As discussed this week in a Wall Street Journal article, many advocates suggest that mediation is the ideal method of handling estate matters. One reason why estate battles are so common is because of the mental and emotional connection to the disagreement apart from the finances. There is often only minimal financial value to the objects over which family members may fight. Yet, in the traditional litigation process significant money is spent deciding ownership of those objects. It is a grossly inefficient way to handle this process.
Instead, estate mediation can settle the matter more quickly without destroying relationships. Instead of jumping straight into the courtroom with each side arguing about their own demands, mediation offers a way for the parties to sit down together, share their concerns, and work toward a fair resolution outside of an immediately contentious settings.
One attorney interviewed for the story summarized by noting that:
“My advice is that there is hardly any downside to trying to mediate before you litigate. […] the lasting anger and bitterness of litigation doesn’t seem to occur when matters are settled by mediation.”
Benefits of Mediation for Estate Disputes
- Avoid court battles
- Maintain long-term relationships
- Protect confidentiality
- Schedule convenient meetings without fighting for court time
- Work in a neutral environment facilitated by an experienced professional
- Emotional benefits – rebuild relationships
- Unique solutions – make your own solutions
- Achieve a mutually agreeable outcome, rather than a court-imposed ruling
- Potentially save money
by: Jennifer Segura