Sometimes, legal disputes surrounding estate planning issues don’t end with litigation, but rather as a result of a successful arbitration or mediation process. Even though it isn’t as commonly encountered in estate planning as it is in, for example, contract law, arbitration and mediation is an option in some situations.
But what is arbitration and mediation? Most people, even though they might have heard of the terms, don’t really know what these two processes entail. Basically, they are both ways to settle legal disputes outside of court. Instead of filing a lawsuit, parties with legal disagreements use independent arbitrators or mediators to help settle the problem.
Even though both arbitration and mediation are not always available, they can be beneficial. Let’s take a look at why these processes can help, as well as the differences between the two.
Arbitration or Mediation
The primary difference between the mediation process and the arbitration process is that in arbitration, both sides have to comply with the decision of the neutral third-party judge, or arbitrator. In the mediation process, a mediator tries to get the two parties to agree to a settlement, but has no authority to impose a decision.
Arbitration and Mediation Benefits
Mediation and arbitration are both forms of alternate dispute resolution. This means that they allow people to settle their legal disagreements outside of a courtroom setting, or without the necessity of having to file a lawsuit. Because both arbitration and mediation don’t rely upon the lawsuit process, they are much more flexible than litigation. They also offer non-adversarial processes. Parties can work together to try to resolve their issues, and can often do so much less expensively than they would if they had to settle their fight through litigation. Additionally, arbitration and mediation are private and less formal than the litigation process, allowing many people to feel more comfortable.
Arbitration and Mediation Drawbacks
Of course, not everything about arbitration and mediation is better than the litigation process. For example, the privacy that these alternate dispute resolution methods offer is not something that everyone desires. Many people, for example, won their cases heard in open court. Also, some people are uncomfortable with the idea of resolving their disputes in a setting that doesn’t allow for an appeal. Though mediation results are not binding, taking your dispute to an arbitrator and allowing the arbitrator to make a ruling could result in you not being able to pursue the matter further.
Of course, there’s a lot more to know about mediation and arbitration, and how you can use them in the estate planning process. You need to speak with an experienced estate litigator for an explanation of how these processes work, and when they apply.