The Case for Mediation in Estate Disputes

Mediation is a wise option to consider for any legal issue, but it is actually the best one when heirs are headed into litigation to dispute over estates and wills. It makes a better scenario for everyone involved to take the dispute out of court and into mediation. Because mediation is much less expensive than going through litigation, its use for estate disputes is rising steadily. When it is very likely the dispute could be resolved in mediation, it does not make sense to squander money on attorneys and other legal costs, especially in economy, and when heirs are trying to keep every dollar.

The big trend regarding intergenerational wealth transfer in this country is also another reason that mediation is becoming more popular. When these assets are transferred, vagueness in the will is often all it takes to set siblings, cousins and other family members off. Children are much more likely to be arguing over their share if a will includes unclear terminology, such as “Divide my assets equally among my children.”

Many individuals headed into court for estate disputes do not realize how drawn-out and expensive these cases could be. It could force remaining siblings to retain legal counsel and pay them. Everyone involved might lose a lot of money in legal fees, not to mention time, if the suit goes into litigation. While litigation might make sense for siblings that are more concerned about duking it out rather than reaching resolution in a timely manner, it is only their opinion. With mediation, everyone has the opportunity to leave the table even more satisfied when the case is over because it can help cut down on both the time and money spent.

When the items heirs are clinging to have more personal value than financial value, litigation makes even less sense. In estate disputes, sometimes fights could be more about sentiment than the actual value, such as wanting a particular piece of jewelry or a painting. Even when other siblings are arguing about that same painting, going into court is simply not a good use of time or money.

Mediation is a much better forum for arguing family members because it more flexible and allows for more input from the disputing parties. It can be a great way for a mediator and heirs to discuss what’s realistic with a particular family. People become more open to talking about possible solutions when they realize what is at stake, particularly if they decide to pursue an expensive litigation claim.