In this line or work, there are ups and downs. When we are able to resolve complex disputes and see parties leave better off than when they arrived, many times with a smile or strong sense of relief, there is no feeling better than that. This is especially true in family feuds. Knowing that our work helps a family function better together is very rewarding. We work with the siblings, parents, children, and elderly. We help them clear the hurdles of relationship problems and just make communication more civil for a better relationship in the future. We also refocus on the most difficult people and help them achieve a better balance in their life and in the family so that all of the members can have a fair resolution that works long into the future.
Some people say “everything can be resolved with negotiation”. In the case of family feuds such as inheritance battles, our experience suggests that the saying is almost true. Alternative Law mediation has a very high success rate in resolving inheritance battles in the hands of an experienced, trained professional mediator, family disputes are often very complex but really will settle fairly. This begs the question – why is mediation is so well-suited to inheritance disputes? A few reasons come to mind.
1. The emotional aspect: There are always emotions involved in a dispute. But this is magnified and prominent in the case of inheritance battles. Each party also has their own history with the will-maker. The amount of years, the previous conflicts and emotional nature of the dispute can make it challenging for parties to discuss the matter with each other.
However, when a mediator steps in, the dynamics of the situation can change dramatically.
Mediators not only listen but analyze the stories, facts and feelings, which have an interesting way of becoming more clear logical as one talks about it. After the process is structured, the ice is broken by the mediator, the parties can safely talk about their perspectives and they often become more willing to let go.
Mediators combine factual analysis, understanding, empathy and imagination to resolve the negative feelings that can make negotiation difficult. Mediators are engaged listeners and can be counselors (though they usually don’t give out personal advice) . They help parties be at ease with their history, emotions and feelings toward each other. The mediators apply their skill set, imagination, conversational skills and process techniques to the ensure that the issues are adequately addressed and understood. This promotes real and lasting understanding and reduces the animosity before the negotiation proceeds to the next phase.
2. Not Listening and Getting Rid of Assumptions: Often, parties have discussed some of their feelings with each other, perhaps not in the best setting. Usually the sides have their minds made up and do not really listen to one another. There are often deep misunderstandings based on biases or unconfirmed assumptions. For example, a sibling may nurture this feeling that the will did not include a certain asset for them because the parent loved the other sibling more. Each party reads their own life experiences and perceptions into the motivations behind the will’s clauses. This often leads to distorted conclusions which they then take for a fact over time. Restarting the conversation ensures that such assumptions are set aside and the conversation is around facts.
3. The Financial Aspect: Finally, many inheritance battles have a significant financial component. Someone may want a bigger slice or different part of the estate. Confusion can also result from how parties interpret clauses that are not clearly defined. For example the will might mention “educational assistance” but not specify whether it’s for one child or all, or if it’s for college or private schooling, etc. Discussing the confusing parts of a will can be the starting point of a settlement. Placing their thoughts on the table promotes understanding by both parties, allowing them to more quickly arrive at a financial settlement, sometimes of their own accord. The financial piece falls together more completely in front of a mediator because both parties are more reasonable in a professional third-party’s presence.
Mediation means that both parties want to settle and are being imaginative, with the assistance of a mediator, to come to a best ideas win settlement. The process can be tricky and requires the mediator to carefully address the factual, financial and and emotional issues.
But it’s far better than the court where emotions and important facts are almost always withheld, leading to a win/loss situation. Courts usually do not understand the parties or their real needs and do not have the time to explore these issues. The courts can never effectively cover all of the issues that comprise a family feud and truly resolve the situation. They are particularly ill-equipped for family feuds and mediation is the is the best answer. Mediation is the alternative to the law and the courtroom.