When drafting an estate plan, one thinks that everything will be planned for when they pass. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Loved ones dispute about the legality of a will or trust, arguing that certain assets should have been left to them. This can lead to lengthy disputes that can prolong the probate process. Thus, many beneficiaries consider alternative ways to address these problems.
How can mediation help with estate litigation? Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution that is essentially a negotiation between two parties that is facilitated by a neutral third party. This process does not involve any decision-making by the neutral third party and can be either initiated by the parties or compelled by the courts.
Because mediation is typically a voluntary process, it begins when the parties decide to. The parties and the mediator have control over the process, deciding when and where it will take place. Additionally, the parties also have control over who is present during mediation, how it will be paid for and how the mediator will interact with the parties. In some cases, mediation can take place with both parties and the mediator in one room while, in others, it can take place in two rooms and the mediator moves between each room.
Once a resolution is reached, a mediation agreement must be made. This agreement is considered binding because they are enforceable contracts. However, if mediation is court ordered, the agreement reached becomes a court judgment. If mediation does not result in an agreement, this means the issue will have to return to court to be litigated.
The mediation process can be very beneficial for the parties involved, saving them time and money. While it can be a better option than litigation, it is not always the best way to solve some or all of an estate issue.
Source: Findlaw.com, “What is Mediation?” accessed Feb. 3, 2018