When a close friend or family member dies, their will can cause some turmoil in relationships. It’s a common occurrence, though no one wants to think it could happen to them. If beneficiaries disagree on who has rights to what, how the estate is split, or any number of other Scottish inheritance disputes, you might need a mediator.
In modern Scots law, this mediator is less an Agatha Christie reading of the will event, and more a go-between for two or more parties that might disagree with the will of the deceased. Issues can range from simple bad wording, or no will, to disputes on splitting large estates.
So, what is involved in mediation? What can you expect from mediation and the process of sorting Scottish inheritance disputes? We explore in this guide.
What is mediation?
Putting it simply, mediation is the referee in a financial wrestle. If a will results in a dispute between beneficiaries, or people who believe they should be beneficiaries, they will need a mediator to help solve Scottish inheritance disputes.
The role of the mediator is to represent both sides of the argument and allow them to come to a solution that, in the best of circumstances, suits both parties. Crucially, this means that they don’t take sides in their efforts. The mediator has a duty to offer both parties a chance to plead their case and work through the issues raised that are most important to both parties and ultimately suggest an agreement.
Mediation is also different from a judgment in that it is the parties that are in control of the solution. This is not like suing someone where a judge makes the final decision with no argument. It’s important that the mediator simply presents solutions rather than demanding them.
Additionally, mediation is a confidential process, which means that the terms of discussion are not disclosed outside of the mediation hearing, in order to create a fair environment for both parties to put their case forward.
If there isn’t a solution and both parties cannot reach an agreement, the parties can then follow formal procedures such as grievances and complaints and can even take the case to court where a judge can settle the matter. In this case, everything said in mediation will be left confidential and not submitted to court.
The benefits of mediation
The biggest benefit of mediation when it comes to Scottish inheritance disputes is that it can better preserve your relationships. If you are in a dispute with a sibling, for example, the ideal outcome would be a relationship with your sibling that isn’t affected by the dispute but getting what you think you are owed from the will.
However, in terms of practicality and why mediation is better than going through the courts, litigation is a very costly and time-consuming process. Nothing done through the courts is going to be quick, and all that time will result in stress and stagnation while assets sit with no owner. When it comes to money, there are fees to consider in going through the courts. There are fees in hiring a mediator too, but they tend to be a lot lower as you don’t have to factor in court fees.
Additionally, as outlined, mediators allow you, the parties, control. You will enjoy confidentiality that the court will not afford, and control over the outcome.
The future of mediation in Scotland
Interestingly, in March of this year, the UK Government announced plans to enforce and fund mandatory mediation. This is only for separating couples in England and Wales, however, it has had people talking about Scots Law.
The idea is designed to lower costs, resources and time for everyone: parties involved in disputes, mediator firms, and the courts. With more mediators involved in these very common family court disputes, couples can avoid the courts entirely, saving themselves money and time going through the system. Additionally, the weight of court cases is lifted somewhat and the courts can focus only on cases that really require it.
When it comes to Scottish inheritance disputes, there isn’t much mention of mandatory mediation specifically for this issue. Mostly it’s focused on family disputes. However, if the concept is accepted by the Scottish courts as it’s expected to be in the future, Scottish inheritance disputes could be the next issue given mandatory mediation.
As yet, mediation in Scottish inheritance disputes is not, in fact, mandatory, but it is a very useful tool to allow both parties of a dispute to come to an agreeable solution. If you are finding that a dispute has no end in sight, you might want to consult a solicitor to act as a mediator and settle your problem with your inheritance with less money and time than the courts can offer. Speak to one of our expert solicitors to ensure that you get what you are owed and settle an inheritance dispute quickly.