By Tom Stodulka, Lead Mediation Professional, Heather Hill Pathways.
One of my recent mediations involved a number of siblings, all well into their 60s, who had taken a dispute regarding the will made by their father to Court. Unfortunately by the time I got involved in this dispute it had already dragged on through the legal process for several years and the estate itself was rapidly dwindling. Sadly the major cause of the reduction in the estate were legal fees (already over $150,000).
Thankfully, through the process of mediation, the siblings were able to salvage their own relationships as brothers and sisters and gain some much needed closure that would have still been a very long way off had the matter continued through the court system. Unfortunately, due to the legal costs expended to date, there was little of their parents’ hard earned estate left to share amongst them.
The main message from this experience is that litigation can be incredibly expensive, can often result in no real winner once legal costs are taken into account and can leave lasting and often irreparable damage for family relationships. Mediation, by comparison, is relatively inexpensive and can often resolve disputes in a way that strengthens (or at the very least preserves) existing family relationships.