As parents age and require more care, many families are facing intense conflicts with each other. Fighting between parents and their adult children as well as disagreements between siblings often occur over how to handle such issues as health care needs, living arrangements, asset protection and inheritance issues. Industry experts believe that 40% of caretakers have major conflicts with siblings. This has led to a steady increase in costly and time consuming legal intervention with lasting damage to family relations.
Instead of litigation, mediation has emerged as a valuable resolution tool, bringing faster and more effective solutions to seniors and their families. Many if not most elder law cases requiring litigation can be resolved by mediation, reducing the family’s legal fees by about 75% while preserving the family unit.
Mediators are trained as neutral third parties who help families define the issues and reach a mutually agreeable settlement. Elder law attorneys can be the best mediators for seniors and their families because they understand the needs and issues and have experience counseling families during traditional elder law discussions. For example, if a family is arguing over money and how to pay for their loved one’s care, an elder law mediator can address asset protection options and advance directives.
While mediation can work in many elder care disputes, it’s important to find the right mediator. When hiring a mediator, Cona Elder Law recommends asking the following questions:
What is your training and experience in elder care mediation?
What types of family crises have you handled?
What is your experience handling cases similar to mine?
How many guardianship cases have you handled?
How would you encourage family members to get involved in mediation?
What is your fee for mediation?
What is included in your mediation services and what isn’t?
What results have you had mediating elder care issues?
Cona Elder Law Partner, Melissa Negrin Wiener, is an Advanced Elder Law Mediator trained by the New York Peace Institute. She serves as a Mediator on the Nassau County Bar Association Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel.