Contentious probate is a particularly emotional sector of law for clients. Family members, who’ve perhaps not seen each other for years, battling over the outcome of a will or the division of an estate when no will is present. Mediation is an effective and confidential way of settling such disputes.
Why use mediation?
At IDR Law we are specialists in inheritance disputes and, in the majority of cases, we find that the best way of resolving disputes is through mediation. Mediation is a lot faster and cheaper than going to court, saving time and therefore client money as well as reducing emotional stress. Mediations also allow for flexible solutions and control. As soon as you walk into a courtroom, you lose control. Also, let’s not forget that when two people walk into a courtroom, they both think they are going to win. One will lose. Inheritance disputes can often be all-or-nothing disputes, so the risk in going to court is often amplified.
Traditionally, contentious probate mediation would take place with all parties in the same building – lawyers with their respective clients and a professional mediator moving between rooms, mediating between parties until an agreement is reached.
The COVID pandemic has changed the way this is done.
How does remote mediation work?
Zoom mediation, or mediation using Microsoft Teams, has had to become the norm: this is where all parties are remote from each other, the mediator setting up virtual rooms so clients in their own homes can be in the same virtual rooms as their lawyers, who may also be in their own homes, or offices. Mediation bundles – bundles of case documents that used to be hard-copied and posted out to each party – are now e-bundles, each document a secure pdf, collated by the claimant’s solicitor and distributed online, thus saving time and resources and reducing environmental impact.
Is mediation via Zoom successful?
Richard Thomas, IDR Law, comments: “I think remote mediation is a great way of allowing cases to be resolved that might otherwise have just sat there or dragged on for an unknown amount of time due to the current restrictions. Mediators have done an excellent job of adapting to challenging times. I don’t think it changes the likelihood of a successful mediation, as we have seen the same high rates of success, but some individuals may find it difficult to access remote mediation due to lack of technology or other factors which might inhibit online communication.”
How do we see the future of mediation?
Louisa Wardle, IDR Law, comments: “Remote mediation works well, saves time and money for the client and also removes any risk of opposing parties bumping into each other. I believe it will remain an option in the future”.
When face-to-face mediations are once more a possibility, there will still be instances where remote mediations over Zoom or Microsoft Teams will be preferable. Remote mediation saves time for all parties and so also saves client money. In a recent case, one of our clients lived abroad; mediation over Zoom allowed this client to remain in their own home thus saving the expense and inconvenience of flying back to the UK. In the past they would not have had this choice.
The relationship between client and lawyer is of utmost importance and sharing information, especially having sensitive and emotionally-charged conversations, is better face to face, thus, for very complex and high value disputes face-to-face mediation makes more sense, but, for a lot of other cases, the benefits of time and money saved may well outweigh the benefits of face-to-face interaction.
Hybrid mediations – where lawyers are physically present with their respective clients, but all parties are remote from each other – are also an effective way of mediating, for example, when a client doesn’t have access to technology or would benefit from the face-to-face support of their lawyer.
Zoom mediations have been vital in resolving cases for our clients in a time when we’ve not been able to meet face to face. We believe they will continue to be an option in inheritance dispute resolution, but face-to-face mediations will still play a crucial part in some cases.
IDR Law is an approachable, boutique firm and the only one in the country dealing solely with inheritance dispute resolution. Whether you’re a law firm, or an individual who feels they would benefit from our expertise, get in touch here, email us at [email protected] or call on 01423 637050.