In today’s landscape, disputes involving trusts, wills and estates are becoming increasingly prevalent. There is a constructive solution available: mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution that can enable parties to resolve disputes at any stage, both before and after court proceedings are commenced.
Our mediators can help to resolve disputes as independent third parties. They facilitate settlement by helping the parties to narrow the issues in dispute and encouraging the parties to negotiate with a view to reaching a consensual outcome.
There are many benefits to mediating a trust, will or estate dispute. Disputes of this kind often involve sensitive family and/or commercial issues and, if pursued in court proceedings, they can often find their way into the press. Mediation offers a private forum in which to discuss and resolve the dispute without the unwanted pressures of public attention. With growing awareness of the ability to make claims, the number of cases in the court system is climbing, which is adding significantly to the amount of time it takes to reach a resolution in court proceedings. For those cases which are suited to mediation, a diversion from the expensive, time consuming and often hostile court process is generally welcomed.
Our trust, will and estate disputes mediation expertise
Our team is at the forefront of advising individuals, families and connected organisations in relation to trust, will and estate disputes. We understand the complexities of these sensitive situations and offer innovative settlement options tailored to your needs.
Elizabeth Sainsbury and Jeremy Gordon, Partners in our Trust, Will and Estate Disputes team, are accredited mediators in England and Wales. Elizabeth is also accredited as a mediator by the State Bar of California.
Drawing on their extensive experience representing clients through the process, our mediators act as impartial third parties, guiding you through the process by clarifying issues in dispute and fostering negotiations to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Mediation - Frequently Asked Questions
Why Choose Mediation?
- Efficiency: Trust, will, and estate disputes often entail prolonged legal battles. Mediation streamlines the process, saving time, reducing costs, and alleviating the stress of protracted court proceedings.
- Asset protection: In some cases, trust and estate assets may be at risk during litigation. Mediation can secure these assets by facilitating early settlement.
- Avoid escalating conflict: Mediation fosters an environment that helps maintain vital relationships among family members, beneficiaries, and trustees.
- Innovative solutions: Unlike rigid court proceedings, mediation allows for creative and tailored settlement options that better suit your unique situation, such as trust adjustments, asset allocation, or tax-efficient restructuring.
- Confidentiality: Privacy is paramount, particularly in complex and sensitive family matters. Whereas court hearings are often public, mediation keeps your proceedings confidential, with information shared only when both parties agree.
What is the mediation process
A mediation will usually be conducted over the course of one day, but this may vary depending on the scale and complexity of the dispute.
On the day of the mediation, each party and their legal representatives will be assigned separate rooms in which they can have their own private discussions. Where the mediation is virtual there will be assigned separate virtual breakout rooms.
The day may start with a joint session where the mediator opens the mediation and each party has the opportunity to give an outline of their position, however the parties and / or the mediator may decide not to hold a joint session if it is unlikely to be considered helpful to the dynamics on the day. The mediator may also provide a summary of the key issues in hand. To prepare for this, the mediator will usually have been provided with a set of documents, including position statements for each of the parties.
Before moving on to the negotiation phase, there will be a number of private sessions where each party can express their views to the mediator. Following this, the mediator will facilitate settlement discussions. Typically, one party will make a settlement offer which will be relayed by the mediator to the other party, who will consider whether to accept it, or make a counteroffer. This process will continue until an agreement is reached. Should the parties reach an agreement on the day itself, the mediation may be adjourned to allow for continuing settlement discussions to take place, with input from the mediator as may be required.
If settlement is reached, the terms of the agreement will be set out in a settlement agreement. Once signed, this becomes binding on the parties and effectively marks the end of the dispute. Where court proceedings have begun, the settlement agreement may be made by way of an agreed court order.
Where does a mediation take place?
A mediation can either take place in-person or virtually. Virtual mediations have the benefit of allowing parties in different jurisdictions to participate, and parties being able to participate from their own homes or in familiar environment.