Once an estate has been sent to probate in California, the court transfers the property or money to the proper beneficiaries. However, disputes may arise regarding whether a will is valid. If the deceased person did not have a will filed, sibling disputes or conflict between other interested parties may arise as to how the court should properly divide the assets.
According to the Superior Courts of California, if you are involved in a dispute but wish to avoid a drawn out, messy legal battle, the parties involved can all agree to give probate mediation a try to come to an agreement on the division of assets in a confidential manner. With mediation, a trained mediator works towards the goal of compromise and resolution while remaining in a state of neutrality. While the mediator does not make any of the final decisions regarding the case, he or she can help diffuse tense situations and facilitate communication and understanding between the parties to move towards a final agreement.
The courts can provide a list of potential mediators and their fees, although you can also opt to use the services of a private mediator. Do keep in mind, however, that going private can result in much higher hourly fees and costs.
A probate mediation should only be considered if all parties involved agree in finding a compromise through this method. If anyone involved is unwilling to bend, you can find yourself spending a lot of money with no final resolution.
All parties who are involved in the estate conflict must be present at every mediation meeting along with their legal counsel. An excused absence can only be given by the court.
This post is intended to explain probate mediation and how it can be used in lieu of a trial, but should not be mistaken as legal advice.