Probate Mediation

When you lose a loved one, the last thing you want to do is get into a fight about what should happen to their property. Yet, family members or others in your loved one’s life may be unexpectedly willing to turn your loved one’s death into a fight.

Before you respond to or escalate probating your loved one’s estate, consider probate mediation.

Probate mediation allows parties in conflict about an estate to come together and have a conversation. By going to mediation, you can:

  • Avoid litigation,
  • Find resolutions, and
  • Protect relationships.

The attorneys at BrewerLong have over a decade of legal experience. We focus on assisting small to medium-sized businesses and their owners from formation to ownership transfers, including transfers that happen upon death. Contact us to discuss how we can help if you are struggling with probate-related issues.

What Is Mediation?  

Mediation is a less formal process when compared to courtroom litigation, and it is available to help individuals and groups resolve disputes efficiently. A neutral third party serves as the mediator and leads the process. With the mediator’s guidance, you work together to find solutions to problems that may otherwise require court intervention.

Through the mediator, you discuss your issues in a non-adversarial context. The mediator helps you compromise and suggests solutions, but you are not obligated to accept them. Many people, however, come to mutually beneficial agreements and leave mediation satisfied with the outcome. 

If you cannot reach a satisfactory resolution, the mediator’s opinions are not binding. You can still take the case to court and fight it out before a judge. Ultimately, you have little to lose and much to gain through mediation.

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Probate Disputes Mediation Can Help Resolve

Regardless of what your dispute is, mediation can help. Common probate disputes include contesting:

  • The appointment of the estate’s personal representative,
  • The representative’s conduct, 
  • The distribution of property, or
  • The will.

Disagreeing with the decedent’s will is not a valid reason to contest a will, regardless of how unfair the will may seem. 

Personal Representative Disputes

Every estate requires a personal representative—an administrator if the decedent left no will or an executor if the decedent left a will. The personal representative manages the estate, including notifying interested parties, satisfying estate debts, and distributing assets. 

Legally, you can argue that the personal representative:

  • Should not be appointed,
  • Should be replaced, or
  • Is mismanaging the estate.

If you want to challenge the distribution of property, you typically challenge the personal representative’s conduct to the extent that distribution is discretionary or contrary to the decedent’s wishes.

Will Contests

If the decedent left a will, you can challenge it on the grounds that the decedent:

  • Executed the will improperly,
  • Was not of sound mind, or
  • Was unduly influenced when creating the will.

Challenging a will generally requires extensive evidence, including testimony.

Avoiding Costly and Time-Consuming Litigation

Litigation, the process of taking a legal case before a judge, is expensive and may take months or even years to come to a resolution—even if that resolution is a settlement. You operate according to the court’s schedule, pay court costs, and potentially amass extensive legal fees.

However, when you attend probate mediation, you can: 

  • Work around your schedules,
  • Minimize legal fees, and
  • Reach resolutions faster.

Having a Florida business lawyer to prepare you for and advise you during mediation is highly advisable. The mediator cannot give you legal advice during mediation, but your lawyer can. This can save you from making costly concessions or mistakes. Overall, you may save hundreds to thousands of dollars in legal fees by going to mediation. You can also save time, allowing you to access and use the property your loved one left that much sooner.

Finding Mutual Resolutions

Mediation frequently allows parties to reach solutions they may not have considered or thought of if they had not attended. It’s easy to assume we know exactly what another person wants and why they want it. Too often, we are wrong.

When you sit down with people you believe have desires utterly incompatible with your own; you might be surprised to discover that your differences are less substantial than you thought. By coming to mediation with an open and cooperative mind, you can have honest conversations.

Through those conversations, you can work out ways for each party to keep the things that are most essential to them, like business interests for partners or the family home for spouses.  

Protecting or Repairing Relationships

Probate disputes often arise between relatives or others with ongoing relationships, like business partners. These disputes can tear groups apart, forcing people to choose sides and changing the trajectory of many relationships, not just those directly involved. 

But when you sit across from someone and have a genuine conversation, you may find that what you assumed about their motivations was incorrect, too. Sometimes, you discover they are also trying to do right by the loved one you lost. 

By recognizing that the other party’s intentions are good, or at least not bad, you may salvage a valuable personal or professional relationship. When you attend mediation and see the other side in a more sympathetic light, you can avoid creating powerful schisms and maintain peace in your relationships.

BrewerLong Can Help

If you have lost a loved one and are facing the prospect of a probate dispute, reach out to BrewerLong today. Our practice focuses on business-related disputes, including disputes that carry over into probate. We can guide you through probate mediation and help you take advantage of its many benefits.

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