Even outside of estate proceedings, communication between family members is generally more difficult that discussions among strangers. Inevitably, families involved in an estate dispute who try to settle their disputes in court end up in a worse position.
Mediation is one of the alternative ways to resolve disputes. In a mediation proceeding, the mediator assists with communication, diffuses heated arguments, and offers suggestions and information to facilitate the resolution of differences between the parties.
How can estate planning mediation benefit the parties involved?
Avoid the delays and stress brought by lengthy court battles
Inheritance problems can usually drag the probate process longer than usual, especially when it goes to court. Mediation can make the resolution of disputes faster and through the help of experienced professionals, you and all the people involved in the process can save yourselves from the emotional toll of being tangled in a lengthy court battle.
Take advantage of significant financial savings
Probate can be a lengthy and costly process, but it can even be lengthier and costlier if there are disputes on the estate. Court battles that drag on for extended periods mean exorbitant legal and incidental fees. Mediation can help you save money that you can use to pay income taxes instead.
Achieve outcome that is agreeable to all involved
Parties who take their issues to court will have to be contented with what the court ultimately decides. In many cases, the court’s decision leaves one or both of the parties frustrated. With mediation, the parties have the opportunity to discuss and agree on a result that everyone is happy with.
Preserve relationship with family members
Court disputes involving family members are often a difficult process that could permanently damage emotional bonds. What’s more, heightened emotions and deep-seated anger can escalate any form of exchange between the parties.
A third party that has no personal stake in the estate can help create a neutral environment where family members can freely discuss their opinions, and whenever necessary, the mediator can help diffuse tension and offer rational and unbiased advice about how to proceed. This is why parties who decide to complete mediation over litigation have a better chance of moving past their misunderstandings.
Potential drawbacks of mediation
While mediation has plenty of benefits, there are potential drawbacks to consider.
Mediation offers a quick resolution
One of the goals of mediation is the resolution of disputes at the quickest possible time. This can be done because there is no court, no judge, and no lawyers involved and only the parties decide on the outcome. Solving problems quickly may seem beneficial but for people who like to take their time before making a decision, mediation is not the best solution.
Mediation is legally binding
Despite not involving the courts, the decision the parties arrive at is considered binding by most judicial systems. As a result, some of the parties may be uncomfortable with the idea of signing any agreement without having their lawyer take a look at it first.
Any of the parties can withdraw anytime
In litigation, only the plaintiff can withdraw from the proceedings by dropping the suit. In a mediation, however, any of the parties can withdraw anytime, which affords no protection for the party that may be at a disadvantage.
Mediation is not the only solution to all estate disputes. In fact, it is only one of the alternative dispute resolution option. However, when done by someone who knows trust and estate law, it is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of settling problems between parties, especially among family members.