Families facing trusts and estates disputes after the death of a relative can use mediation to resolve the disputes while preserving relationships. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process in which a neutral mediator discusses the issues with parties to a dispute and attempts to resolve the dispute by mutual agreement of the parties. Often, mediators gather the parties for a day of conferences and sharing information, with the goal of reaching resolution by the end of the day. In trusts and estates matters, mediation can help with communication, resolve conflicts, and preserve confidentiality.
Disputes over an estate often arise because of a lack of communication. The deceased person whose estate is at issue may not have communicated to family members how he or she would dispose of the assets. The surviving relatives may not have talked to the rest of the family about their feelings. When a minor disagreement happens, the prior lack of communication can lead to everyone getting lawyers and starting a prolonged fight over the estate.
Mediation can provide the communication link. The mediator will speak to the parties about the source of their disagreement and try to find common ground for them. The parties can come to recognize that lack of communication, not true animosity, led to the dispute.
Mediators usually request that the parties sign a confidentiality agreement, and courts often require that mediation proceedings be kept confidential. The parties and the mediator agree that their discussions will not leave the room after the mediation ends. For family members with private wants and needs, confidentiality is paramount. It allows them to express their thoughts without fear of public exposure. Confidentiality lets the mediator explore creative proposals that a court may not be able to order, and ask probing and private questions of the parties that could greatly impact the resolution of the dispute.
When to Mediate
Trusts and estates disputes can permanently divide families. At the very beginning of disputes, relatives or their lawyers should propose mediation to preserve relationships. It is much easier to resolve issues before harsh words are exchanged and communications shut down.
Disputes can arise as early as the initial estate planning meetings. The parties may discover that they have a conflict of interest in forming an estate plan together, as in the case of spouses with different financial means. Starting with mediation before an argument divides the family is the best course of action.
To find out more about trusts and estates mediation in The Bahamas, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.
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