Whether family members find themselves in dispute over business or trust and estate matters, mediation is always a better initial approach to dispute resolution than litigation and other common dispute resolution alternatives.
Mediation is a negotiation between disputing parties. The mediation is facilitated by a neutral third-party mediator who is licensed and experienced in the legal and financial components of the dispute. Often the chief mediator will be assisted by a co-mediator licensed in psychology or sociology and experienced in family dynamics. Unlike in cases involving a judge, jury, or arbitrator, where a decision is imposed on the parties, the mediator controls only the process of communicating. The outcome is not imposed on any party by the mediator. Rather, the negotiated settlement achieved in mediation is totally consensual between or among the disputing parties.
Mediation offers families a private and confidential forum for dispute resolution. The privacy and consensual nature of mediation allows for the possibility of continued relationship among the disputing family members. Family relationships are more likely to suffer irreparable harm when the family dispute is played out on the public stage and a judge or jury declares winners and losers.
Research indicates that the largest transfer of inherited wealth in American history is taking place in this century. Though most of these transfers will occur peacefully and according to the testators’ intent, many of these transfers, and the subsequent actions of fiduciaries, will result in conflict. A common characteristic of many of these conflicts will be that they will be fueled by emotion and family dynamics which litigation is not designed to address. Mediation of such disputes by professionals licensed to deal with both the esoteric technical issues, as well as the emotional energies underlying the dispute, is likely to represent the most efficient and effective path to peaceful family resolution.