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Estate Mediation and Alternate Dispute Resolution

It cannot be denied, estate litigation can be time-consuming and expensive. Litigation or out of court disputes among family members following the death of a loved one are both challenging and emotional, particularly if family members did not get along under the best of circumstances. The issues litigated in Surrogate’s Court involve complex legal questions wrapped up in long-standing family problems, a sure combination for protracted and expensive efforts. While the attorneys of Cullen and Dykman are thoroughly familiar with the demands of litigation, we also have a large reservoir of experience to draw from when attempting to resolve disputes short of litigation.

On occasion the parties to litigation are interested in facilitated mediation as an alternative to trial. Essentially a formalized settlement process, mediation involves the selection of a neutral mediator to facilitate negotiations between the parties to a dispute. Members of the Trusts and Estates department are eager to offer our services to the Bar as mediators.

Our experience in this area, honed by the experience of members of our Department as attorneys in different Surrogate’s Courts, leads us to offer our services to the Bar as mediators in ongoing court proceedings in order to expedite the process of resolution of disputes. If you are already involved in Surrogate’s Court litigation, then you might want to consider using our services to avoid the delays that can occur in a court system already overburdened with volume and the demands of reduced budgets. There are times when recourse to mediation of this quality can even prevent the institution of a court proceeding.

The benefits of mediation in settling trust and estate disputes are many. They include:

Questions you should be asking:

The attorneys at Cullen and Dykman can answer these questions and more. The firm will not only represent clients in mediation efforts, our attorneys may be called upon to serve as mediators.

A case in point


Mr. X drafted a trust for the life benefit of his widowed mother, of which he and a sibling were trustees and all the siblings were remainder beneficiaries. All the mother’s assets were transferred to the trust. The mother remarried a person disliked by the family. She then instituted a proceeding to invalidate the trust as the product of her son’s undue influence over her during a time of extreme vulnerability. Mr. X was a prominent member of his community and the local newspapers made much of the intra family litigation. Rather than drag the family through the courts the parties agreed upon a lawyer-mediator who settled the case with no further publicity.