Mediation is a voluntary process that families and others can use to prevent, reduce or resolve conflicts. Mediation sessions are confidential, and a professional mediator is a trained neutral who has no stake in the outcome and who works with parties to create resolutions tailored to their needs and priorities.
Mediation or consulting assistance for effective communications can be helpful both in the estate planning process and at the time of estate settlement and administration.
At the planning stage, mediation focuses on preventing future problems. Decisions involving assets and family dynamics can be challenging. It is not unusual for people to try to avoid the discomfort of grappling with complex issues. Yet, when important concerns are left unspoken, the estate plan itself may deficient because those who created the plan were not adequately informed. As the plan is eventually executed, unforeseen problems may arise. Family relationships and family wealth may suffer.
Some couples or individuals become paralyzed by the difficulty of sorting out conflicting perspectives and priorities without help, and their estate plan is never completed or is not updated as necessary.
At times, the effort to communicate the motivations behind planning choices is essential to prevent misunderstandings that can lead to bruised feelings or worse.
Families who run a family business, blended families, families who must plan for children with special needs, nontraditional families, and families who will leave significant assets to family foundations or donor-directed funds may face additional financial and emotional hurdles.
Estates of significant size can create conflicts over distribution of both significant assets and cherished household items. Families of more modest means can face difficult decisions over the disposition of the family home. Adult children may be confused and angry about the estate settlement process.
Mediation provides an alternative to avoiding difficult but essential issues, enduring ongoing family discord, or initiating litigation. If litigation has begun, mediation can help parties reach a faster, less expensive resolution of their own creation.
Mediation does not take the place of the working relationships that attorneys, financial advisors, accountants, and other professionals have with their clients, but can often help them to both avoid conflicts of interest and to achieve their clients’ goals.