As parents 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. This has led to a steady increase in costly and time consuming legal intervention with lasting damage to the family.
Instead of litigation, mediation has emerged as a valuable resolution tool, bringing faster and more effective solutions to seniors and their families. "With one quarter of our clients requiring litigation last year, 90% percent of those disputes could have been resolved by mediation, reducing the family’s legal fees by about 75% while preserving relationships," says Melissa Negrin-Wiener, elder law attorney, mediator and partner at Cona Elder Law.
For example, a 63 year old man retained Cona Elder Law to bring a guardianship proceeding in court to protect his mother’s financial security. She had been spending huge sums of money on frivolous things and he was fearful she would not have enough money left to pay for her living expenses or care. After several months in court while working with Cona Elder Law, he was ultimately given full transparency of financial statements, but his mother was bitter about being served with legal papers in a proceeding that ultimately cost tens of thousands of dollars. Instead of litigation, a mediator could have done the job for a few thousand dollars and preserved the family relationship.
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,” says Melissa. 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, Melissa recommends asking the following questions:
What is your experience in elder law?
What types of family crises have you handled?
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 results have you had mediating elder care issues?
Melissa 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. She is also a State Certified Court Evaluator and Counsel to Guardians and incapacitated persons.
Cona Elder Law is recognized as a leading elder law and estate planning firm on Long Island. The firm was ranked the #1 Elder Law firm by Long Island Business News for 4 consecutive years (2012 – 2015) and was a finalist in the 2015 HIA Business Achievement Awards. The firm provides creative advocacy and cutting edge planning strategies and has been featured in many publications including: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, L.I. Business News, Investor’s News Daily, USA Today, The Daily News, The New York Post, Kiplinger’s, Reader's Digest and many others. Cona Elder Law attorneys have appeared as guests on WNBC-TV, WABC-TV, CNN-fn, News 12, WLNY News 55 and many radio stations including WOR, WCBS AM, WBAB and WFAN.