Rachel Shaw, solicitor specialising in contentious probate disputes, discusses the option of mediation as an alternative to the Courtroom.
Mediation is becoming increasingly popular as a method of resolving contentious probate disputes. This process involves a trained mediator, usually a lawyer, facilitating and negotiating between the parties with a view to reaching a settlement palatable to all, or at the very least narrowing the issues in dispute.
There are many advantages to mediating a dispute: it is a flexible process that can be tailored to the nature of the dispute and to the parties, it can be allocated an hour, a day or longer if need be, the parties can sit
together or in separate rooms and of late, as a consequence of the restrictions placed upon us by the COVID- 19 pandemic, mediations can be held remotely with there even being a facility for the parties to sit in different
The parties may choose to be represented or unrepresented, although, in most matters involving some degree of legal argument and principles, parties are represented by their solicitor or barrister.
Mediation is a confidential process which is important when the dispute may involve matters of high emotion and sensitivity as indeed many contentious probate disputes do.
Matters litigated through the Court can take months and often years to reach a final hearing in a Courtroom, a problem further exacerbated by the pandemic during which paperwork and hearing backlogs have only increased. Mediation can sometimes resolve matters within several months culminating in a day’s mediation. Although the mediator’s fee is generally born equally between the parties, it still represents a far more economic process than the incurred costs of hours of lawyers’ preparation leading up to a final Court hearing. Even further economies are made when mediations are held remotely, negating the time and cost of travel and room hire. Mediation also provides a certain degree of control for the parties over any outcome reached. In the Courtroom, the outcome of any dispute is solely in the hands of a Judge.
Mediation can often assist in rebuilding relationships between the parties if they have broken down due to an estate of a friend or family member being disputed. The fact that all parties have voluntarily come to the mediation table indicates a certain amount of willingness to resolve matters and in the majority of cases, any settlement reached involves a certain degree of compromise on the part of the protagonists.
Whilst there is no guarantee that mediation will be successful in all cases, it is certainly a tool worth considering by those parties to a contentious probate dispute. The fact that matters can be resolved in a more timely and cost-efficient fashion is surely an attractive proposition to anybody who has had to resort to or consider the onset of litigation.
We at Holmes & Hills Solicitors have experience of representing parties at mediation and have utilised the services of experienced and effective mediators in order to resolve disputes to the satisfaction of our clients.