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Should You Mediate a Probate Dispute?

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Most estates are probated without any controversy. However, sometimes parties disagree about certain issues. For example, a creditor might make a claim for payment that the personal representative does not believe is legitimate.

Probate disputes can be lengthy and time-consuming. In Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Bleak House, a probate dispute ends up eating the entire value of the estate, meaning nothing is left over once the dispute is resolved. Can you avoid this fate?

One option for resolving conflicts is to participate in mediation. In this article, we’ll help you understand whether mediation is something you want to pursue. Contact us for more information.

What is Mediation?

Two parties to a dispute can try to resolve it by meeting with a neutral third person. This is the mediator. He or she is trained to help each side listen to each other and attempt to reach agreement. A mediator does not act as a judge. The mediator also cannot force you to accept any resolution. But by working with a mediator, many people can find common ground and settle their disagreement.

Is Mediation Required?

A judge could order that you participate in mediation. So taking part is required. But you are not required to accept any proposed resolution.

Can You Have a Lawyer with You?

Yes. However, the lawyer’s job in mediation is different than in court. In court, your attorney will make arguments to the judge and try to get the judge to agree with your position. In mediation, by contrast, your attorney will help you clarify your position and will also advise you about whether a proposed settlement is a good deal.

What Are the Advantages of Mediation?

Principally time and money. You can often resolve disagreements faster with mediation. This can speed up the probate process. Also, mediation is private, whereas probate is public. You might be able to resolve sensitive disputes privately using mediation.

Are There Disadvantages?

Yes. Mediation often involves compromise. You have to give a little up to get a little back. In some situations, this trade-off might not be ideal. For example, if you have strong proof that a will has been forged, you might be better off challenging the will in court. As stated above, no one can force you to accept a proposed settlement. You can always have your day in court.

Does Mediation Cost Money?

Yes. You will have to pay for the mediator’s time. Most mediators in Florida can charge a couple hundred dollars an hour. You and the other side will jointly pick the mediator unless the court assigns someone to you. All in all, mediation can save money over the long term.

Do You Recommend Mediation?

As experienced probate attorneys in The Villages, we understand that each client’s case is unique. For that reason, we carefully analyze whether mediation is ideal for our client’s particular legal dispute.

If you would like help thinking through your options, give Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group a call, 800-743-9732. One of our lawyers can meet with you for a free consultation.

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