Estate Mediation by Norman Pickell
Jewellery. Silverware. Coins. Vehicles. Cottages. Family farms. Houses.
Furniture. Wood piles. As an estate lawyer and mediator, I have seen
people fight over all of those things and more after a person has died.
Disputes may arise because family members have different views of what
is a fair distribution of the deceased's property.
Sometimes the arguments are between beneficiaries. Sometimes they
involve people who thought they should be beneficiaries.
Almost always the fighting involves family members, whether they are
children, grandchildren, siblings, a step-parent or other relatives.
Approximately 25 % of Canadians expect to have a conflict with family
members over a will.
In one word, I am going to tell you how you can reduce the level of
After the death of a parent or other family member is the time when
people are grieving and need the support of each other. The last thing
that people should be doing then is arguing over the deceased's estate.
But emotions are usually running high after the death of a parent or
other relative. Sometimes the death can trigger issues that have existed
just below the surface for years. Conflict at this point in time can
literally destroy a family. Special occasions during the year are never
the same for those families. In fact, some relatives never speak to one
another again. When I mention this to people, most have a story to tell.
You likely do too.
In many jurisdictions, including Huron County, estate mediation is
voluntary. If everyone agrees to go to mediation, then a mediator can be
chosen and the process started.
You should consider using mediation before you go to court. But even if
the lawsuit has been commenced, it is still not too late to go to
Court files and court rooms are open to the public. Mediation, on the
other hand, allows the family to keep their dispute out of the public
Mediation is cheaper, both financially and emotionally, than going to
court. Mediation is also faster. Estate mediation is conducted in a very
informal atmosphere, in contrast to the formalities of the court room.
Mediation also gives the parties more control over the outcome than if
they went to court.
The neutral mediator helps those involved in the dispute to communicate
and negotiate with each other in a constructive manner. Mediation gives
everyone the opportunity to voice key emotional issues in a controlled
When matters are being discussed "off the record" in mediation, the
parties tend to speak more freely than they do in a court case. The
result is a better understanding among the parties of what the real
Everyone involved in mediation has an opportunity to be heard. Sometimes
being heard and receiving an apology or explanation for something that
happened in the past is more important than receiving monetary rewards
from the estate.
In mediation, we talk about interests, instead of positions. With the
mediator's assistance, the parties work out a mutually satisfactory
resolution of the matters in dispute. The process does not just involve
the legal issues. In most mediations, the underlying causes of the
conflict are explored - and often resolved - as well.
While some time is spent discussing the problems, mediation provides a
method for looking at solutions. The mediator helps the parties and
their lawyers look at all possible options, including ones that perhaps
no one has thought of before. Then the parties together decide the
Grief may affect one or more of the party's ability to mediate. Hence,
the mediator may suggest that mediation be delayed to allow a party to
progress further through the grieving process.
Mediation can repair, maintain, and even improve the relationships that
exist among the parties. This is so important in estate mediation
because usually everyone involved is related or a good friend.
Norman Pickell is a mediator and lawyer based in Goderich, Ontario. For
more information about mediation, please visit his web site at