Inheritance disputes – how mediation can resolve and reconcile
“When families are at war the opposite side becomes the devil incarnate. But the beauty of mediation is that the process can be transformative. Sometimes shattered relationships can be rebuilt.” Mediator Alistair Pye at IPOS Mediation speaks about his experiences mediating in inheritance disputes.
This article is a great read for both mediators and potential clients alike as it shines a light on the importance of not only coming to a settlement in mediation, but also allowing potentially broken down relationships to heal.
Divorce and remarriage, DIY wills, rocketing property values and fallout from the Supreme Court’s 2017 judgement in Ilott v Mitson – these are all drivers in the rising rate of inheritance disputes. Fortunately, mediation offers not only the chance of a settlement but also an opportunity for warring families to heal.
Understanding the family history
In my experience inheritance disputes are some of the most emotional and acrimonious mediations to manage. The fact that someone has engaged in litigation with a family member points to a highly charged situation and there can often be palpable hatred between the opposing sides.
It’s not always just about the will. Frequently, the testator’s sense of hurt and injustice goes back to their childhood and an underlying issue with a sibling or parent. That’s why I carefully question the parties at the start of the mediation to try to ascertain the family history. If I get a sense that the dispute is being driven to a large extent by past grievances I’ll try to work with that to see if, alongside settlement, some form of reconciliation is possible.
With inheritance disputes I have to work harder pre-mediation than I do with many straightforward commercial or insurance type disputes. There needs to be careful discussions with the solicitors to get a better understanding of the relationship between the parties. It’s also important for me to be fully briefed on any requirements to keep the parties separate.