When someone dies, their family members may feel very strongly about what should happen in re: their estate. Family tensions often reach a crescendo during probate proceedings, especially when people don’t leave equal inheritance for their children or they specifically choose to disinherit certain people.
Family members may end up arguing bitterly about what is fair and appropriate given the terms of someone’s estate plan. Even in intestate succession situations wherein the courts oversee the distribution of property per state law, there could still be major disputes about the appropriate way to handle different assets.
Mediation is a service that is frequently associated with business disagreements and divorce. However, mediation may potentially be useful for any kind of interpersonal dispute, including disagreements related to estate administration. What are the benefits that families can potentially derive from resolving their disagreements in mediation instead of in probate court?
1. They can preserve privacy
The more that people have to talk about the details of an estate in probate court, the more financial and personal matters might become public knowledge.
Mediation is a confidential process under state law, which means that people can trust that what they say in mediation won’t end up repeated elsewhere or part of the publicly-available court record. For families that need to discuss misconduct or very personal matters, the privacy of mediation can be a very valuable benefit.
2. They can take the strain off affected relationships
The disputes that arise during estate litigation can potentially do permanent damage to family bonds. People can hold grudges for the rest of their lives when they feel like siblings or stepparents did something unfair and unethical.
Even if the family goes to court, the winner-take-all approach of many probate proceedings will mean that the people who lose will likely harbor resentment in their hearts forever. Finding a way to compromise in mediation will help preserve the relationship between the family members arguing over the estate.
3. They can reduce dispute-related costs
The more time family members spend fighting in probate court, the more the dispute will cost the estate.
When mediation works and people enter into an agreement, there won’t be any expensive litigation that follows. That can substantially reduce the overall costs the dispute generates and therefore maximize how much of the assets in the estate end up passing to the beneficiaries instead of going to cover litigation expenses and other costs.
Attending mediation could be one viable means of resolving a significant estate administration dispute with family members. Those who have questions about this opportunity can seek legal guidance at any time.