Negotiation. Mediation. Litigation.
Wherever possible, our first step in client representation is to give our clients an opinion on the merits of their case. Sometimes we can give an opinion that the case is strong; other times, that it is weak. Most cases fall somewhere in between. We try to give an opinion at the earliest stage, but sometimes have to wait until later on in the process to obtain a better fix on the strengths and weaknesses of your case.
After assessing your case, we consider the merits of negotiating a solution with the opposing party on your behalf. Many cases can be resolved on a negotiated basis. Good counsel are always ready to negotiate, but enter upon settlement negotiations with an informed view of their settlement goals and a firm view of what is reasonable.
Obviously, it is not possible to conclude a settlement in all cases, particularly if one party or the other does not understand the issues or simply refuses to be reasonable. It is usually this type of case that can go to trial.
If settlement is not possible, we may then consider some form of alternative dispute resolution. This will often entail mediation. Mediation is a non-binding process where a neutral third party acts as a facilitator. A mediator, unlike a judge, does not decide the case or impose a resolution. The mediator’s role is to help the people involved in the dispute to communicate and negotiate with each other in a constructive manner and to find a resolution based on common understanding and mutual agreement. Mediation allows for creative solutions to disputes in a way that is not possible at a trial. In Ontario, all parties involved in estate disputes in Toronto, Ottawa or Windsor are required to attend at a mandatory mediation session. Elsewhere it is voluntary.
Mediation requires the co-operation of the opposing party, but is faster and cheaper than litigation. The mediation process is one of forging a compromise built upon a mutual understanding of each other’s priorities. If mediation is not acceptable to the opposing party then a court hearing is usually the only alternative.
Our ultimate aim in representing clients in the estate litigation process is to get the best, most cost-effective result at the earliest possible stage.