Alternative Dispute Resolution for Estates

Are you facing estate-related disputes that seem impossible to resolve? If so, you've no doubt contacted an estate attorney to examine your options. Unfortunately, that can get costly. Equally important, you'll likely get no results for months, possibly years.

But what if there was another option that avoided estate litigation? And that option could end your issue quickly while costing you substantially less?

That's the magic of alternative dispute resolution. You can conclude many disputes in as little as one day, so you'll resolve your conflict quickly. Moreover, by using estates ADR you don't even have to consult with an attorney unless you want to.

The Power of ADR in Estate Conflicts

ADR methods offer a more friendly and cost-effective alternative to lengthy courtroom battles. They provide a confidential and neutral environment for parties to resolve issues.

With estate concerns, there are three common ADR types:


A trained, certified mediator holds discussions between parties to help reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is highly effective for resolving family disputes and inheritance conflicts. The process has a high success rate. It helps resolve over 85% of disputes.

You can select from three types of mediation:

  1. Facilitative: The mediator doesn't offer any opinions. They work with the parties to find a common ground. So, they'll help discuss offers and counteroffers until a satisfactory result.
  2. Evaluative: Although similar to the facilitative ADR process, the mediator evaluates each party's position. That evaluation hopefully achieves a common ground leading to a settlement.
  3. Mediation-Arbitration: This approach uses a second ADR technique, arbitration. If you cannot reach an agreement after mediation, you agree to arbitrate the issues with the mediator. Their decision becomes binding.

Adding a mediator improves the likelihood of resolving your estate disagreement and finding common ground.

Business and estate planning lawyer Donald Petrille Jr. is a certified mediator at High Swartz. He brings his ADR experience and estate-related knowledge to the table, helping to resolve estate disputes quickly.


In arbitration, an impartial arbitrator makes binding decisions based on evidence given by both parties. Like mediation, it offers a quicker and less formal alternative to litigation.

That said, arbitration does include some courtroom elements. It allows for a discovery process and uses some rules of evidence, though they're less stringent.

An attractive feature of arbitration is that the arbitrator typically has estate experience. So they can assess both sides using that knowledge. A judge may lack estate knowledge.

One of the critical requirements of the arbitration process is that the arbitrator's decision is binding.

Collaborative Law

Another common ADR type is collaborative law. Unlike the other ADR processes mentioned, it requires an attorney and, potentially, other professionals.

The parties agree to forgo court. Their attorneys manage the process and counsel their clients. Using that counsel, both parties arrive at a mutual resolution to the estate conflict.

Regardless of the alternative dispute resolution type, you can expect to reach an agreed-upon solution quickly. Collaborative law does involve attorney costs. Nonetheless, those costs are substantially less than full-blown litigation.

ADR Processes Demand Open Communication

The estate administration process often generates disputes. These can involve contested wills, real estate, probate assets, life insurance, or trusts. Regardless, they strain family relationships. And even the best-conceived estate planning documents are open to dispute.

ADR presents a sound base for resolving those disputes. But, as the adage says, it takes two to tango. ADR works best when both parties come to the table willing to communicate.

With embattled disputes, alternative dispute resolution processes have a lesser chance of success. Even the best mediator will struggle to achieve groundwork for a solution with parties.

With an open mind, ADR methods can resolve many estate conflicts.

Common Estate Issues Where ADR Gets Fast Results

Many estate disputes can reach a swift conclusion using alternative dispute resolution. These common estate issues are perfect for the ADR process:

  • Inheritance: A family member may claim undue influence with updated estate legal documents. Another may be upset because a will doesn't include them. Numerous other issues can surface involving inheritance. ADR can resolve those issues without hurting family relationships like a legal dispute can.
  • Executor Mismanagement: Sometimes survivors believe executors or trustees mismanage the estate. In addition, there may be concerns about breaching duties or not acting in the best interest of beneficiaries. Mediation and arbitration can help achieve a common ground to resolve the issue.
  • Will and Trust Contests: You contest a will during probate. But it's costly and requires solid evidence. At the same time, it creates hard feelings among family members. ADR can remove the stress and cost and deliver a better overall outcome for everyone involved.
  • Creditor Claims: In some cases, the deceased person may have personal property subject to creditor claims. The last thing you need after a loved one's death is to challenge a legal action by a creditor. ADR can bring a swift, less stressful conclusion to this issue.
  • Second Marriage: It's not uncommon for a second surviving spouse to face challenges from a divorced wife. These challenges can become incredibly difficult with children involved. Rather than getting into a legal battle, ADR can help resolve issues more amicably.

Benefits of ADR in Estate Matters

If you've read this far, you've likely grown aware of how ADR benefits you with estate disputes. To clarify, using alternative dispute resolution can help you in these ways:

  • Efficiency: ADR processes typically offer faster resolutions than traditional litigation. For example, accessing probate assets can take a year to start. Why add more time by taking legal action when you can get results in as little as a day?
  • Savings: ADR typically costs less than court as you avoid legal and court costs. Plus, time is money, and the process can save a reasonable amount of time.
  • Confidentiality: You've already gone through a trying time. The last thing you want to do is air dirty laundry with a court process. ADR proceedings are private, keeping sensitive family matters out of the public eye.
  • Relationships: Death is torturous, no matter the circumstances. Litigating a will or inheritance can tear a family apart. ADR methods promote cooperation and communication. That can preserve family bonds and reduce emotional stress.
  • Custom Solutions: If you elect to hire an attorney and go before a judge, the court will determine the outcome. Alternative dispute resolution with estate affairs lets parties craft their solution, which may differ from a court's.

Again, it's essential to approach the process openly, focusing on a mutually agreeable outcome. But with that mindset, ADR methods can deliver massive benefits.

Estate ADR in Montgomery and Bucks County

Don't let estate conflicts tear your family apart or drain your resources. Our certified estate mediator can help resolve conflicts without additional stress following losing a loved one.

Contact our law firm today to explore the benefits of ADR in resolving estate and estate administration issues. We have offices in Norristown and Doylestown, PA. Let us help you find a peaceful and efficient path forward.

Estates ADR Attorneys

Donald Petrille, Jr.

Donald Petrille, Jr. | Business & Estates Attorney | High Swartz Attorneys at Law

As an attorney, Donald Petrille, Jr. primarily represents businesses as they wrestle with complex legal issues and individuals in estate planning matters.

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