Contentious Probate expert Guy Platon reflects on his recent experience of settling a case for a client via Remote Mediation, considering it something likely to stay long after the pandemic is over.
I had a recent case where settlement was reached via remote mediation. What we have seen with the Covid pandemic is a huge shift towards remote working and ‘arms length’ interaction and the civil justice system is no exception.
More often than not this forced change has actually been beneficial or at least developed an alternative process that is likely to stay.
This is the case for remote, or hybrid, court hearings or even the remote witnessing of Wills but I would like to briefly consider remote mediation.
In my case, we had a dispute arising from a final Will, and the deceased’s children were parties to a mediation session.
Mediation has clear advantages over litigation; it is much cheaper, is more flexible and can be less confrontational. It is also much more likely to preserve any existing relationship between the parties and, in the case of family members, this can be particularly important and desirable.
There were 6 attendees to the mediation and it took place at the height of the lockdown restrictions. The opposing parties were actually located in different parts of the country so a remote hearing was immediately more advantageous, less time consuming and cheaper.
The hearing took place via video conferencing. The mediator was by then very adept at handling multiple parties on the same conferencing system and each party had their own ‘breakout’ room where they could have private conversations, away from the mediator and the other parties.
There was never any possibility of the opposing parties having any contact with each other. This was particularly important given the sensitivities of the issues being discussed.
One further advantage of remote mediation was that a physical, pre-Covid, mediation would have allowed for the risk of the parties seeing each other as they would have been at the same venue. This can lead to awkwardness and apprehension that can be off putting for a lot of people.
The mediation went well and an acceptable compromise was reached between both sides. The mediator’s fees were greatly reduced as he was able to attend, and ‘host’, the mediation from his own workplace. Similarly, both parties were not as inconvenienced by having to attend the same venue in person.
What can this mean for you?
Mediation, or the wider category of ‘alternative dispute resolution’, is being used more often than ever before.
The main reasons for this are the expense, inflexibility and delays with litigation; these have definitely increased and therefore mediation, which has lied alongside litigation for a long time, is now more attractive than ever before. The parties are encouraged, at all stages, by the Court to use it.
Mediation is usually entered into at a relatively early stage, ideally before the parties have ‘dug in’ and therefore can be a great deal cheaper than a final Court hearing.
The adoption of remote mediation, undoubtedly caused or at least accelerated, by the Covid pandemic has broadened its appeal even more.
If you are involved in a civil dispute then it is important to be aware of the range of options available to you and that a Court is hearing is not necessarily inevitable, with all its costs and drawbacks.
It is hoped that the availability and ubiquity of mediation means that these kinds of disputes are not as off putting or daunting as they otherwise would be; they do not have to be expensive, drawn out affairs and a quick settlement can be reached.
If you are involved in a dispute and need assistance to resolve it, be it via mediation or otherwise, we can help.
Guy specialises in disputes arising from inheritance and probate, including testamentary capacity and the interpretation of wills.
He can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 01254 67 22 22. Alternatively you can talk to us via live chat or complete our online enquiry form and one of our experts will contact you.