We all know the important role mediation plays in a myriad of legal disputes – whether it’s who has custody of children in a divorce or who gets the vacation home – those who can successfully incorporate mediation are typically better off, both emotionally and financially. Is there room for mediation in estate planning?
Estate Planning Mediation
A mediator’s role is to work with both parties involved in any kind of legal quagmire. It’s generally a more affordable option for those parties, not to mention it requires a fraction of the time commitment of most traditional cases. Mediation typically provides an avenue for both parties to walk away feeling as though they received a fair compromise.
Consider this – some studies suggest that up to 25 percent of family disputes include disagreements over the will of a loved one or because of who was named as power of attorney for medical or financial decisions.
It’s not uncommon to find siblings, step-parents or in-laws flailing accusations back and forth over the material possessions, the realization that some family members will have no say in how inheritances are spent or doled out, or the certainty that one or more family members believe the executor is spending money that’s earmarked for other purposes. An ideal example is the ongoing feud between Casey Kasem’s adult children and their stepmother.
When both parties are willing to sit down across the table in a less-formal conference room versus a courtroom, there exists an opportunity to rebuild a family’s dynamics while also airing out the various feelings. Mediation is more likely to ensure any hurt feelings subside faster and keeps resentment to a minimum.
Avoiding the Need for Mediation
There’s one way to lessen the odds of hurt feelings after the death of a loved one. It requires an honest disclosure before death. When a person explains to his loved ones who will receive what after he’s gone, it eliminates any shock or disappointment once the will is read. It also eliminates accusations that the deceased was pressured into leaving more to one sibling over the others. Hearing it from Dad can cement that friction. This doesn’t always happen, though.
If mediation isn’t successful, the only alternative left is an expensive court battle. In those instances, no one really wins and the emotional costs to the family are incalculable. Once those divides are in place, it can be difficult to resolve, even years later.
Estate planning is an important part of our lives. The sooner we begin planning, the better. When you know what you’re dealing with, you also have the insight that allows you to make changes ahead of time, whether it’s changing how much you contribute to your 401 (k) or realizing you don’t have enough insurance. It also serves as an opportunity for keeping your loved ones in the loop, should you elect to do so.
To learn more about mediation and how it can prevent problems in your family, contact our Massachusetts and New Hampshire estate planning lawyers today.