The loss of a loved one is an emotional and challenging time in our lives. Unfortunately, however, in addition to all the grief, complicated (legal) issues can arise in relation to estates. Inheritance conflicts can drive family members apart and damage precious relationships. Fortunately, there is an alternative approach that can help resolve such (latent) disputes: inheritance or estate mediation. In this article, we will elaborate on what inheritance mediation entails and show with a practical example how effective this form of mediation is. Read the full post here.
What is inheritance mediation?
Inheritance mediation is a process in which a neutral third party, the inheritance mediator, helps involved family members to resolve (latent) disputes relating to an estate. The mediator is specially trained in conflict mediation and seeks to promote open dialogue and constructive negotiation. The aim of inheritance mediation is to reach a joint solution acceptable to all parties involved, without the need for litigation.
A real-life example:
Imagine the Jansen family has suffered a tragic loss with the death of their father, who left an extensive estate without making a will. The family consists of three adult children: Lisa, Peter and Sarah. Soon after his death, tensions and disagreements arise between the children over the division of the estate.
Lisa claims to have taken most of the care of their father in recent years and suggests that they should receive a larger share of the estate. Peter, on the other hand, believes that their father had personally promised him that he would inherit the family business. Sarah feels left out and wants a fair distribution of the estate.
In this situation, inheritance mediation can be a solution. The family therefore decides to seek the help of an experienced inheritance mediator. The mediator creates a safe environment in which all parties involved can express their concerns and wishes.
During the mediation sessions, various topics are discussed, such as the father's care, the promises made and the individual needs of each family member. The mediator facilitates a structured discussion and helps the family members to listen to each other and understand each other's perspectives.
After several intensive sessions, the family members manage to reach a compromise that is acceptable to all. Lisa receives a slightly larger share of the estate because of her dedication to caring for their father, while Peter and Sarah also receive equitable portions. Moreover, a special arrangement is made to preserve the family business and allow Peter to take over the business in the future.
Specialised inheritance mediator
In estate mediation, it is very important to involve a lawyer-mediator who specialises in inheritance law/ estate mediation. A mediator with this specific expertise has a deep understanding and knowledge of the complex legal aspects involved in (the settlement of) an estate. This has several advantages:
- Legal knowledge and guidance: a lawyer-mediator with a background in inheritance law provides valuable legal knowledge and guidance during the mediation process. The specialised lawyer-mediator can inform the parties involved about the relevant laws, rules and rights applicable to the estate. This ensures a better understanding of the legal context and contributes to finding realistic and viable solutions.
- Efficiency and cost savings: the combination of mediation and inheritance law expertise can lead to a more efficient handling of the dispute. The lawyer-mediator can help the parties involved address the legal issues in a structured manner and have focused discussions. This helps avoid unnecessary delays and legal costs associated with court proceedings.
- Creative solutions: a lawyer-mediator with inheritance law expertise can propose innovative and creative solutions that take into account both the legal and personal interests of the parties involved. Alternative options can be explored, such as setting up a family fund, creating specific conditions for certain assets or creating a detailed care plan for vulnerable family members. These tailor-made solutions can help distribute the estate in a balanced and equitable manner.
- Neutrality and balance: a lawyer-mediator who also specialises in inheritance law can act as a neutral and balanced intermediary between the parties involved. They understand the emotional charge that often accompanies inheritance disputes and can facilitate communication between the parties. Through their impartial role, they can ensure that all points of view are heard and that a fair and equitable process takes place.
Inheritance mediation has proven to be a valuable tool in resolving estate disputes. Instead of going through a long and costly legal battle, mediation offers the opportunity to reach a lasting agreement that does justice to the needs and wishes of all involved. The example of the Jansen family shows how estate mediation can lead to a harmonious solution and also the preservation of valuable family ties, despite intense emotions and complex legal issues.
Engaging a lawyer-mediator specialised in inheritance law/legacy mediation also offers clear advantages. It helps optimise the mediation process and contributes to finding lasting solutions that are both legally and emotionally satisfactory (and sustainable) for all involved. If you are involved in an estate dispute, or suspect such a dispute is about to arise, engage a mediator with inheritance law expertise to guide you in finding a solution that does justice to your needs. An experienced estate mediator can help you to find a joint solution and to avoid lengthy court proceedings. If you have any questions or need the support of an experienced inheritance mediator, please feel free to contact Mrs Angelique van den Eshoff, specialised family and inheritance lawyer and mediator at SPEE lawyers & mediation.