Resolving Family Feuds: Mediation And Litigation In Contested Wills Cases

A loved one passing away can be an emotionally wrenching time, and family disputes over asset distribution or will terms can quickly arise after their passing. Contested wills cases, where family members contest its validity or fairness, often cause lasting strain in relationships and become emotionally charged affairs. 

Finding an amicable resolution becomes paramount during these emotionally charged instances. This article explores two primary approaches for finding a resolution: mediation and litigation.

Understanding Contested Wills Cases

Contested wills cases arise when one or more family members contest the validity or provisions of a will, such as its provisions or undue influence by third parties, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, or ambiguities in its language. As these disputes can often be complex in nature and require legal intervention to reach a fair and satisfactory resolution, legal intervention may often be necessary to secure justice for all.

Mediation: The Road to Amicable Resolution: 

Mediation is an informal and voluntary process in which a neutral third party, known as a mediator, facilitates communication and negotiation among disputing parties. Mediation provides a less adversarial environment in which family members can express their concerns, discuss interests, and work towards mutually agreeable solutions. An experienced mediator helps keep emotions under control as he/she guides both sides toward exploring creative methods of settling differences between them.

Benefits of Mediation:

  1. Keeping Family Ties Alive: With effective mediation comes open dialogue that encourages collaboration, creating an environment of mutual understanding and empathy among family members.
  2. Confidentiality: Mediation ensures confidentiality for family matters that arise during mediation sessions, providing them with the freedom to keep personal matters out of public view.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness: Mediation can save families money on legal fees and court costs by helping to avoid costly litigation processes.
  4. Faster Resolution: Mediation can offer a faster resolution to family disputes than litigation does, sparing them the agony of prolonged courtroom battles.

Litigation: Seeking Redress in Court:

When mediation fails to produce an agreement or one or more parties refuse to engage, litigation may become necessary. Litigation involves taking your contested will case before a court for hearings where a judge or jury will make decisions based on the evidence presented and applicable laws.

Litigation Lawyers’ Role:

Litigation lawyers play an essential role in will contest cases. They gather evidence, investigate claims and prepare cases for trial. At trial, they present arguments and evidence supporting their client’s position while engaging in settlement negotiations to seek an out-of-court resolution.

Factors to Consider in Contested Wills Cases: 

Deciding between mediation and litigation for will contest cases requires taking into account family dynamics, the complexity of the dispute, and whether family members can work collaboratively on resolution.

Mediation may be preferred when:

  • Preserving family relationships is a priority.
  • The dispute involves emotional issues beyond legal matters.
  • Parties are willing to work together to find common ground.

Litigation may be necessary when:

  • There is a significant legal challenge to the validity of the will.
  • Family members are unable or unwilling to engage in mediation.
  • The dispute involves complex legal issues that require resolution by a court.

Conclusion

In conclusion, contested wills cases are emotionally charged and complex situations that require careful consideration and sensitivity. Mediation and litigation are two viable paths for resolution, each offering its own benefits and considerations. By seeking the guidance of experienced contested wills lawyers, such as those at Darwin Gray and engaging in a thoughtful and compassionate approach, families can find a path forward that honours the wishes of the deceased and fosters healing among family members during this difficult time.