Recently the Iowa Supreme Court approved on a trial basis a mediation program for probate matters in Polk County, Iowa. Under the program, the Polk County Probate Judge has the ability to refer matters to mediation at his discretion. Unlike arbitration, where the arbitrator makes a decision which is binding on the parties, a mediator works with the parties to help them reach a decision which is agreeable to the parties.
The mediators for the program will be experienced probate attorneys who have gone through mediation training. Both Jim Beatty and Ned Miller of our office completed 24 hours of mediation training in April of this year, and are now registered as probate mediators.
As mediators, our goal will be to identify the issues between the parties and assist the parties in working out solutions to the issues. The goal is to remove time consuming matters from the Court calendar and attempt to resolve the matters in a less formal mediation environment. Upon the completion of the mediation session, the mediator is required to report back to the Court whether the mediation was successful or if the mediation failed.
The mediation process is more flexible than a formal hearing in Probate Court. A hearing in Probate Court will simply decide the issues before the Court. The mediator can assist the parties in solving the issue and can also set forth procedures to deal with problems that arise in the future. Our probate mediation practice will not be limited to cases referred to us by the Probate Court. We will also be willing to mediate estate planning and probate matters outside the Court system.
Mandatory mediation has been in place in Polk County for a number of years for family law cases. The program has proven to be successful. It is our hope that the mediation program for probate matters will also be successful and will be expanded state wide by the Supreme Court after the completion of the trial program in Polk County. We look forward to putting our years of probate experience to work helping parties to mediate their differences.
By – James D. Beatty