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Alternative Dispute Resolution in Inheritance Disputes

Thursday 16 January 2020

When the way in which deceased person’s Estate is to be distributed or the validity of the Will itself is disputed by family members or other beneficiaries, the emotional and financial burden can be substantial.

Such disputes are subject to the Civil Procedure Rules and the parties are encouraged by those Rules to attempt to resolve disputes outside the court room, by engaging in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

ADR can take a number of forms, including offers in correspondence, round table meetings and mediation.  In inheritance or Will disputes when emotions are high, parties might become unduly concerned about how a mediation might work in practice.

  1. Where will the mediation be held?  A mediation can be held at a neutral venues such as a hotel or conference centre (usually incurring room hire costs) or at the offices of one of the solicitors.
  2. Will I meet my opponent?  This is a common concern that both solicitors and mediators are asked about.  In some types of disputes, the parties may want to meet at the beginning or the end of a mediation, but it is more often the case in inheritance disputes that the parties want to avoid a face to face meeting.  It is often the case that arrival and exit from the venue can be staggered, as can use of the venue’s facilities, to avoid an unintended and potentially uncomfortable meeting.
  3. Will mediation be expensive?  Generally, the costs of a successful mediation are less than the costs of a trial.  The mediator will endeavour to find what might be the parties’ common ground or a deal that both can agree on to avoid either party incurring further costs.
  4. Do I have to mediate?  The court could make an order to penalise a party who has refused to mediate when it decides how the winning party’s costs should be paid.

Inheritance disputes (and any proposal to mediate to try to resolve such a dispute) should be discussed with a specialised solicitor to ensure that the appropriate method of ADR is used and the correct approach is adopted during any settlement negotiations.


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