Litigation is often the result when the disputed assets of an Estate or Trust are significant, or there is strong emotional tension in the family. The scenarios leading to litigation are many, but include disputes among siblings, between parents and children, or children of a prior marriage in conflict with a parent’s second spouse. Disputes are common between heirs and beneficiaries and a corporate fiduciary, such as a financial institution, or a professional fiduciary such as an attorney or CPA, or a court appointed county administrator. Regardless of the type of dispute, litigation in the fiduciary context can be costly, both financially and emotionally.
One consideration anyone engaged in or contemplating litigation is to engage a professional to help arbitrate or mediate the dispute. In a mediation, feuding parties meet with a professional who can help the parties negotiate a resolution to the dispute, which, if successful, may result in a signed agreement resolving the disputed issues and, more important, precluding any future litigation over the issues resolved. The mediation process does not require a court appearance, or any evidentiary hearing, but it does give the parties a chance to say their piece, and a good mediator can help each side understand the perils and costs of their matter, and help to bring closure. If mediation is not appropriate the parties can submit their case to an arbitrator, who is chosen by agreement of the parties. The arbitrator would take evidence, hear testimony and reach a finding, similar to that available in the court room, but without the expense and formality of seating a jury before a judge.