Elder Decision Making & Conflict Resolution

 In Legal & Financial

Elder Decision Making & Conflict Resolution


ediation is a method to resolve problems … or to create agreement. It is much less expensive than litigation and it is more likely to preserve relationships with others than other traditional legal avenues. In cases where there are multiple parties, such as families or caregivers, mediation can be very effective in arriving at agreements. These voluntary agreements result in positive outcomes for the aging or disabled.

The mediator’s role is to be a neutral, impartial third party facilitating a resolution of problems with all parties. Some of the areas at issue might include:

  1. Safety and quality of living for the elder person.
  2. How health care decisions should be decided and by whom.
  3. Making financial decisions and completing transactions.
  4. Resolving any disputes among family members.
  5. Real estate matters with landlords, upkeep, mortgages.
  6. Preparation of the estate documents, such as a will, guardianships, powers of attorney.

Family members and others closest to the situation are in the best position to fashion the most appropriate and satisfying options and solutions to many of the above issues.  Relying on the court to dictate how things so personal are handled may bring about an unwanted outcome.

Mediation is an efficient, private, and inexpensive method of resolution when compared to a lawsuit. Mediation sessions can usually be scheduled within a few weeks from the time of the request — and most sessions last only a few hours or a day, depending on the type of case. In contrast, lawsuits often take many months, or even years, to resolve.

Mediation is particularly valuable when your dispute involves persons with whom — either by choice or circumstance — you need to maintain a relationship. Lawsuits can polarize people and may ruin relationships, so an important advantage of mediation is resolving a dispute while maintaining the relationship.

An additional advantage of mediation is confidentiality. With very few exceptions (for example, when there is evidence of a criminal act), what you say during mediation cannot be revealed outside the mediation proceedings and cannot be used later in a court of law. By contrast, everything said in court or submitted in connection with a lawsuit becomes available to the public.

Even complex cases may cost only a fraction of the cost of bringing a lawsuit. For example, a day of mediation may cost each side less than $500. By comparison, a full-scale court battle could cost as little as $10,000 and usually much more. If you’re already involved in a lawsuit you can still use mediation. Mediation often works even when the parties have hired lawyers and the dispute is in litigation.  Parties may speak for themselves and can bring up creative ideas, personal feelings, and practical solutions that litigation alone may not address.  The mediator may point out the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position and, in turn, change each party’s view of the prospects of winning (or losing) at trial, opening the door to a mutually acceptable settlement.

Finally, agreements reached through mediation are more likely to be followed than orders imposed by a judge. After going to court, someone (and often both parties) feel like they’ve lost.  When this occurs the parties are much less likely to follow the orders. In contrast, a number of studies show that people who have freely arrived at their own solutions through mediation are significantly more likely to follow through.

There is no reason not to try mediation.  It most often will be to your advantage, both personally and financially.

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