California trust & estate mediation: is timing everything? Probate Courts in California have a variety of voluntary probate settlement programs designed to assist in the resolution of probate, estate and trust related claims and disputes. Los Angeles has the "Pro Bono Probate Settlement Program", San Francisco has the "Probate Pro Bono Mediation Program", Alameda County has a Mediator Panel for its "Alternative Dispute Resolution Program", and Sacramento has a "Probate Court Appointed Attorney Panel". The timing and expense of mediation is a consideration whether the process is initiated by way of a Superior Court program or through private mediation.
Hackard Law focuses on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation. This focus entails litigation in both California's civil and probate courts. At some point in litigation, most cases get mediated. There are advantages and disadvantages to early, middle and late stage mediations.
Early-stage mediation can allow the parties to save money and time in resolving disputes. These advantages must be balanced against the disadvantages of not having full case discovery. That said, a full-out discovery effort can be quite expensive.
In California's major urban counties, an estate or trust litigation dispute can involve a protracted battle of experts, percipient witnesses, depositions, law and motion and discovery. The costs of these battles can be steep. Expert witness fees for psychiatrists or neuropsychologists who testify to capacity and undue influence issues can be as high as $25,000 per expert. Forensic accountants who follow mandated probate statutory procedures can cost as much as $25,000. Geriatric specialists, primary care physicians, caregivers, neighbors and family members are often deposed. It is not uncommon to see attorney's fees plus deposition costs be as high as $7500 per deponent per side. Attorney's fees of $10,000 to $15,000 per day per side per day of trial are also not unusual. It doesn't take much imagination to see that early mediation does have some advantages.
Costs escalate throughout the litigation process. Those cases that go to mediation shortly before trial have likely been through the rigors and great expense of litigation. Parties may be weary, and the weight of attorney's fees might fall heavy. Sometimes the protracted fights have reduced the likelihood of pretrial resolution. Gifted and experienced mediators will often advise parties that the rigors, uncertainty and expenses of trial rarely increase the litigant's happiness.
These are the realities of litigation. Hackard Law regularly represents estate heirs, trust beneficiaries and elder financial abuse victims in California's major urban areas. You can call us at 916 313-3030. We'll be happy to listen to your story and see how we can help you.