Why Use Mediation in a Probate Case?

Why Use Mediation in a Probate Case.

Probate disputes can be costly, time-consuming, and contentious. They can also cause emotional stress and tear families apart. However, families in Minnesota who are facing probate litigation have another option available — mediation. This is a form of alternative dispute resolution that can help you settle conflicts outside the courtroom with more privacy, less conflict, and reduced expense. Mediation in a probate case can also help families explore compromise and meet each other half way in a way that is not possible if the matter goes to trial.

What is Mediation in a Probate Case?

Mediation in a probate case helps parties resolve their conflicts without litigation. It can help families reach an agreement regarding any types of disputes in connection with the probate process, including will contests, trust disputes, breaches of fiduciary duty, executor conflicts, and other probate matters. The process uses a neutral third-party called a mediator to facilitate productive discussion and assist the parties with reaching a satisfactory resolution.

Mediation is voluntary and confidential — unlike litigation where the dispute becomes part of the public record. It takes place in an informal setting and replaces traditional courtroom proceedings. Depending upon the complexity of the case, mediation can resolve a probate dispute in as little as one session which often lasts all day. Importantly, with mediation, the parties are in control of the outcome of their case, rather than a judge.

How Does Probate Mediation Work?

Although the mediation process can vary, based on the specific facts and circumstances, it generally follows the same steps in every case. Each attorney will write a confidential mediation statement to the mediator. In that statement the parties summarize their position and ideas for settlement. On the day of mediation both parties and their attorneys are in the same location but in separate conference rooms. The mediator spends time with each side to understand their side of the story. The mediator then “shuttles” between the sides with settlement offers. Each side will have the opportunity to share their perspectives on the matter at hand and propose settlement ideas.

During each mediation session, the mediator will assist the parties with communicating their concerns, discussing their goals, and expressing their wishes — and ensure that emotions do not get in the way of finding a mutually beneficial solution. Although the mediator does not have the authority to make decisions in the case, they can help the parties evaluate the situation, discuss the issues, and explore potential resolutions. Once a settlement has been reached, an agreement can be drafted and submitted to the court to become a binding order.

Advantages to Using Mediation in a Probate Case

There are numerous advantages to using mediation in a probate case. Mediation can be particularly useful in matters involving large or complex estates and where family dynamics are heated. Not only can mediation help to safeguard estate assets for the intended beneficiaries — rather than spend a considerable amount on litigation costs — but it can also help to preserve family relationships. Mediation is a way for the parties to be in control of the outcome rather than give that control to the judge.

Mediation in a probate case can also offer the following benefits:

  • Privacy — Mediation is a confidential way for families facing a probate dispute to resolve a case. In contrast with litigation, it takes place behind closed doors and can be used to keep family and financial matters private, rather than allow these issues to be aired in an open courtroom.
  • Cost-effectiveness — By using mediation, families can save a substantial amount of money that would otherwise be spent on litigation and attorney’s fees. This can help to preserve estate assets and ensure they are distributed to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
  • Efficiency — While the litigation process can be lengthy, depending on the court’s calendar and a variety of other factors, mediation can often resolve probate disputes faster.
  • Flexibility — Mediation in a probate case can allow the parties to reach a creative resolution that might not be achieved in the litigation process. Families can work together to accomplish their objectives and reach a settlement between themselves. Mediation can also address emotional concerns that the litigation process would not focus on.
  • Amicability — Family dynamics are usually at the root of probate disputes. The mediation process is non-adversarial and encourages open communication to help promote amiability and trust among family members.
  • Control — Probate mediation allows the parties to retain control and craft a potential resolution that is in everyone’s best interests, rather than let a judge decide the result.

While there are relatively few disadvantages to mediation, it’s essential to be aware that the process can involve a significant amount of compromise from both sides. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement using mediation in a probate case, no one can force anyone to accept a settlement — in such instances, litigation may be the only option.

Contact an Experienced Minnesota Probate Attorney

In the event you are wondering whether mediation is right for your probate matter, it’s best to discuss your specific case with an experienced probate attorney. At Dave Burns Law Office, I provide dedicated counsel for probate disputes and am adept at helping clients reach positive outcomes to their disputes — whether the results be reached by using mediation or litigation.

If you would like to discuss your trust dispute, I welcome you to contact me at (612) 677-8351 or by emailing dave@daveburnslaw.com. I represent clients throughout the Twin Cities metro area and am available to meet with clients in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Categories: Probate

The Dave Burns Law Office hopes you find this article helpful. But please do not rely on it as legal advice. The law changes regularly and the outcome of any legal matter depends on its unique circumstances. View full disclaimer