FAQs on Estate and Trust Mediation

What types of matters are good for candidates for mediation?

Will and trust disputes take many forms. A person may bring a claim that a will was invalid, and should therefore not be admitted to probate. A family member who has been left out of a will may contest the provisions of the Will. A beneficiary may complain that the trustees have not properly considered him or her when exercising their discretion. Or the claim may be that the trustees or a third party have caused the estate or trust loss through bad management or investment.

Mediation is a very useful and effective way to resolve such disputes, whether or not litigation has been started.

How do we pick a mediator?

While it’s not necessary for a mediator to be an attorney, it is beneficial to have someone mediate who does understand the issues and terms involved in the dispute.

As a qualified neutral certified in both family and civil mediation, I am uniquely qualified to mediate estate and trust disputes. The issues that arise in estate litigation more closely resemble those of family law. The matter involves family members with history that predates the current dispute. Unlike in a typical civil dispute, there are times where the parties to a probate dispute will need to maintain some sort of relationship (for the benefit of other family members) in the future.

Who should be at the mediation?

If a case has been filed in court, it is my policy to have all parties to the action attend (or be represented) at the mediation as all parties need to be present or represented or agree to be bound by the outcome. While I prefer to limit the mediation to the parties involved, I understand that there may be “non-party decision makers” (e.g. spouses) necessary to allow the party to make an agreement. It is my policy to ensure, with agreement of all parties, that everyone involved with making the decisions that will lead to an agreement are present.

If you would like to have someone attend the mediation who is not a party to the matter, please be sure to let me know in advance so I may solicit agreement from the other parties involved.

What should I provide to you for the mediation?

If the matter involves an ongoing litigation filed in court, I require the parties to supply me with a record of the action to date. At the very least, I ask for any estate planning documents in the matter.  An up-to-date valuation of the estate or trust fund is vital, so the parties and the mediator know how much is in dispute. It is helpful for the mediator to know whether any settlement offers have been made before the mediation. All parties should be ready to tell the mediator how much their legal costs amount to, and how much more will be spent if the action goes to a trial.

It is very helpful if all parties set out in writing the position they hold at the start of the mediation. These are usually prepared by the parties’ lawyers. There is nothing to be gained from a position statement which merely reiterates the points made in a party’s statement of case. That merely heightens any bad feelings between the parties. What is helpful is to indicate that the party hopes the mediation will achieve a settlement, perhaps how the party hopes that will be achieved, and possibly what form of settlement the party considers may be realistic.

What if we reach a settlement?

If we reach a settlement I usually prepare a settlement agreement for the parties to sign while still present at the mediation to memorialize the agreement. Once I draft the Agreement, the parties, and lawyers, will have a chance to review it. Once signed, I will provide each party with a signed original.

What does it cost?

Any settlement should deal with the legal costs that the parties have incurred. In some cases it may be appropriate for all parties’ costs to be paid out of the residuary estate. However in most cases settled at a mediation I have found parties bear their own costs, usually out of their share of the estate. 

To see a list of my fees for mediation services, go to my fees page.

How do we begin?

Contact my office to arrange for estate and trust mediation. 

My office will reach out to the parties to set up a time that works for all parties as noted above. We will then send out the Agreement to Mediate and the Fee Agreement for all parties, and their lawyers, to sign. Upon receipt of the Agreements and the retainer fee will proceed to the mediation.

From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park.

9.3Chris Tymchuck

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5901 Cedar Lake Rd., Minneapolis, MN 55416
| Phone: 952-358-7400

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9.3Chris Tymchuck