Heirs headed into litigation to dispute over estates and wills would be wise to consider mediation. Taking the dispute out of court and into mediation makes it a better scenario for everyone involved.
One of the biggest reasons that mediation for estate disputes is growing is because it’s much less expensive than going through litigation. In today’s challenging economy, and especially when heirs are trying to keep every dollar, it doesn’t make sense to squander money on attorneys and other legal costs when it’s very likely the dispute could be resolved in mediation.
Another reason that mediation is becoming more popular is that there is a big trend regarding intergenerational wealth transfer in this country. When these assets are transferred, vagueness in the will is often all it takes to set siblings, cousins and other family members off. If a will includes unclear terminology, such as “Divide my assets equally among my children”, then those children are much more likely to be arguing over their share.
Many individuals headed into court for estate disputes don’t realize how drawn-out and expensive these cases could be. It could force remaining siblings to retain legal counsel and pay them. If the suit goes into litigation, everyone involved might lose a lot of money in legal fees, not to mention time. For siblings that are more concerned about duking it out rather than reaching resolution in a timely manner, litigation might make sense - but only for them. Mediation can help cut down on both the time and money spent, leaving everyone more satisfied when the case is over.
Litigation makes even less sense when the items heirs are clinging to have more personal value than financial value. Wanting a particular piece of jewelry or a painting could be more about sentiment than the actual value. In that case, going into court is simply not a good use of time or money, even when other siblings are arguing about that same painting.
Since mediation is more flexible and allows for more input from the disputing parties, it’s a much better forum for arguing family members. Mediation can be a great way for a mediator and heirs to discuss what’s realistic with a particular family. Sometimes when people realize what is at stake, particularly if they decide to pursue an expensive litigation claim, they become more open to talking about possible solutions. This conversation could end up saving everybody a lot of time, energy and money.