Can Mediation Help With Estate Planning?

Do you or a loved one need to complete estate planning? Estate planning is a complicated subject for many people, including such diverse decisions as who should make medical decisions for you to who should take care of the family pet or the family business after you’re gone. 

One estate planning tool that is often underutilized in this process is mediation. How can mediation assist you with various potential stumbling blocks during estate planning? Discover a few key ways.

1. Help the Family Communicate

Family communication is sometimes the most difficult part of planning for a parent’s or grandparent’s estate. Because estate planning involves money and strong emotions, talking about it can be inherently difficult. In addition, both the planner and potential heirs often don’t know which topics to discuss without letting things become too personal.

As an experienced professional, a mediator can help you identify which topics need addressing, help everyone be open without being defensive or angry, and keep conversations going in the right direction — all in a confidential setting.

2. Avoid Later Litigation

No matter how well the estate planner tried to cover their bases when making arrangements, family squabbles can erupt after they’re gone. Heirs who are surprised or disappointed by their inheritances may contest a will or some parts of it (such as specific provisions, the named executor, or recent changes), resulting in bitter conflict. 

The best way to avoid things erupting into lawsuits is to hammer out certain issues before you complete your will. If heirs understand why you chose a particular trustee or executor, for instance, they’re more likely to accept your decision. Calm mediation discussions can also help avoid contests based on things like mental soundness and coercion. 

3. Address Difficult Assets

Does the estate include any unusual assets with special management requirements? Special assets which must be kept intact or which require heirs to work together need advance planning and preparation among those heirs.

The most common special asset is a family-run business. Business owners often make many assumptions about their business after they pass away. They may assume that adult children want to take it on, for example, or that the family can work together to run it. This may or may not be the case, but only with good communication now can you find out exactly what will be the best choice for these unique assets. 

4. Boost Heir Preparedness

Are your heirs prepared for the assets they will inherit? This depends on many factors, including how open the estate planner is with their family.

If you plan to divide assets equitably, for instance, each child may not receive an equal share. Heirs who expect a larger inheritance may need to understand what they will actually receive and why so they can plan accordingly. On the other hand, if you want a certain family member to take charge of funeral arrangements, discussing your intentions helps them start thinking about their responsibility.

5. Manage Special Needs

The handling of assets for any family members with special needs calls for a unified family approach. The entire family is usually interested in providing for a loved one’s best interests, but they may each have their own idea of what those best interests are. As the estate planner, you can help things run smoothly after you’re gone by drafting an agreement now.

Could mediation help your family with any potential estate planning challenges? No matter what your concerns, the best place to begin is by meeting with Lerner Conflict Resolution Center. With our expertise and guidance, you and your family can find resolutions that promote family unity, happiness, and peace of mind. Call today to learn more.