Recently, I mediated a probate matter where a blended family could not agree on the distribution of the decedent’s estate. All the parties felt they had been promised the same things. The turning point in the mediation was when we discussed that they all might be right! “Suppose in his final moments, he wanted you all to be happy and he promised you all the X. “ The parties were grieving and had become attached to X. By shifting the conversation and their perspectives around each other a small bit, we were able to continue with a very productive conversation and ultimately a resolution that worked for everyone.
Mediation can be a gentler process for families grappling with elder care issues, guardianship and probate matters. There is room in the mediation dialogue to acknowledge and sort through the myriad of emotions towards a meaningful discussion around very old and entrenched dynamics. When it is appropriate the families can include the protected party or parent. A mediator is not a family counselor or a judge, rather a trained neutral party who can move between the disputants to help the family navigate difficult and changing circumstances to find solutions.