Mediate Mom’s Estate

  1. Reach out.
    In the first few weeks after Mom’s death, reach out to your siblings by phone, email or in person to support one another and reaffirm what Mom would have wanted — that you all get along in finalizing her affairs.
    Typically only one or perhaps two of the siblings are named Executors of Mom’s estate, however, all siblings should be fully informed of estate developments and decisions.
  2. Involve spouses.
    Although spouses have no part in your parent’s estate they will be important “voices” in the estate administration process.  It is better to have them join meetings and ask questions than to have them silently sabotage the estate administration process.
  3. Overinform siblings.
    Whether or not specific information is customarily shared with siblings during an estate administration, it is always better to overinform than underinform.  At a minimum, make sure all siblings have a copy of Mom’s Will or Trust and a listing of her assets.
    Siblings should also receive weekly or monthly estate updates directly from the Executors and/or the estate attorneys.   The updates would let everyone know what to expect next and to solicit questions from siblings before they become misunderstandings.
  4. Expect delays.
    Distribute an estate timeline to all siblings so they know how slowly an estate administration can move (typically 2-3 years).  The estate attorney should be able to provide a timeline template.
  5. Get participation.
    Ask siblings with special skills (e.g. real estate, antiques, investments) to contribute to the estate process directly by delegating some specific responsibilities to them.  This will make them a stakeholder in the process and much more invested in a smooth, successful estate administration.
  6. Intervene early.
    At the first sign of misunderstandings or infighting, ask the estate attorney to set up a joint conference call with all siblings, their spouses and the fiduciary team (Executors, estate attorney, estate paralegal, estate accountant) so that everyone can their questions in one organized forum.
  7. Mediate.
    If early efforts fail, hire a specialized estate mediator immediately to prevent costly estate litigation and to get Mom’s estate back on track.