When you are thinking ahead and trying to decide how you will take care of your family in the future, a will or a trust is likely an immediate consideration. Both provide vehicles for you to distribute your assets to those who you feel need them and in an appropriate manner. What you don’t want is for your decisions to wind up in litigation down the road, or to drive a wedge between your beneficiaries. Mediation may be the answer to the problem.
Estate planning can have unforeseen consequences
Take executing a last will and testament, for example. On its face, it seems fairly straightforward. You have accumulated assets throughout your life and you want those assets to be distributed to family or friends. So you have a will prepared, expressing your desires and explaining how the distributions should occur. You may even speak to your beneficiaries in advance, in an attempt to head off any potential problems that may arise when the will goes to probate.
However, these issues can be emotional. Communication that needs to take place in order to avoid future problems often does not. It may be that a conversation needs to be had between two or more beneficiaries, rather than just between you and the beneficiaries. Everyone will be viewing the situation through their own emotions, with their own interests in mind.
Mediation improves communication
When a neutral mediator is used, effective communication is the primary goal. Parties are given a forum to communicate openly and effectively about what’s important to them and why. Sometimes this is done with all parties present – sometimes it’s done individually or in smaller groups. It depends on the circumstances and mediation provides the flexibility to deal with those circumstances. Courtrooms can be cold places. Litigation can be adversarial. Mediation can provide a means of merging the practical and emotional aspects of estate planning, in an environment designed to address the needs of all who are involved.