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In a prior post we highlighted the brewing legal battle between Robin Williams’ wife and his children over the disposition of the late comedian’s estate. Indeed, Williams had a will, but there are sharp disagreements between the parties about how his property is to be divided and how the trusts he established were to be administered.

The matter was heard before a San Francisco County Superior Court judge this week. While it is not reported what arguments were raised, the court ordered the parties to participate in an eight week mediation before the matter will proceed. 

For the uninitiated, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, where the parties meet with a neutral third party who helps them reach a compromise that both parties can agree to. The mediator’s job is not to determine whether a party prevails or loses. Rather, he or she evaluates their respective positions and tries to help them understand the opposing views and how they can benefit from resolving their dispute.

Courts commonly refer parties to mediation as a first line of resolution given the steep costs of traditional litigation. Mediation is regularly cheaper because there are no costs related to discovery, no motions to prepare and argue, and there is no trial. Further, parties can resolve their differences in one session; compared to the many months that a traditional case will case to be resolved through the legal system.

It remains to be seen whether Williams’ children and wife will benefit from mediation. If you have questions about whether mediation will help you in your estate challenge, an experienced attorney can help.