Mediation and Arbitration Attorney Largo, Clearwater & St. Petersburg FL
If your family is dealing with a legal issue concerning your elderly loved one, you may not necessarily have to experience the stressful, costly process of a court trial. Two alternative courses of action you may consider are mediation and arbitration. These options may be available whether your case is about nursing home abuse, probate or trust disputes, or fiduciary abuse (when an entrusted person misuses an elderly’s assets).
Attorney Ted Schofner of The Schofner Law Firm is a distinguished mediator/arbitrator in Florida. Families in Tampa Bay and surrounding areas count on Mr. Schofner to mediate or arbitrate their cases to help them achieve fair and ideal results. See how he can help your beloved and your family. To schedule a consultation call The Schofner Law Firm toll-free at 1-800-891-9996.
Defining Mediation and Arbitration, and Their Differences
Mediation and arbitration are types of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), so called because they are legal processes that may replace court litigation in certain cases. Both processes employ a neutral third party – not a judge – to help resolve conflicts without going to court.
Mediation typically enlists one independent third party, called a mediator. The mediator facilitates discussions between the two disputing parties and helps them arrive at an agreed resolution. The keyword there is “facilitate” – the mediator does not make decisions but instead guides both parties to a smoother, more agreeable conversation.
Because of this, mediation is a highly preferred dispute resolution method. It minimizes costs and hassles for both parties, and generally results in mutually satisfying agreements. In an effort to reduce court dockets, Florida courts usually require lawsuits to be mediated before they can be entered into the trial calendar.
Arbitration, on the other hand, involves one or more independent persons, called arbitrators, to act like a judge in a dispute. Commonly, each side of the dispute selects one arbitrator, then both selected arbitrators select a third one, creating a panel of three. After listening to both disputing parties, the panel makes decisions and solidifies them through a majority vote.
Both mediation and arbitration can be legally binding or non-binding. However, it is common for mediation to be used for non-binding agreements and arbitration for binding agreements. A binding arbitration often replaces the trial process, requiring both parties to comply with the decision of the arbitrators.
Mediation and Arbitration in Elder Law Cases
These are only some types of cases involving seniors that may be resolved through mediation or arbitration:
Disputes around wills and trusts
When a senior family member engages in estate planning, it is often expected that some relationships stumble over where the assets go. There may be conflicts among heirs in a will, or between the trustees and beneficiaries of a trust. Sometimes, there are disputes over a loved one with special needs, or over the management of family heirlooms or family businesses.
A neutral third party like a mediator can help smooth out differences in perception and priorities. Mediators are particularly valuable in clearing up areas of ambiguity at the root of estate disputes.
Nursing home abuse or neglect
It is very common for nursing homes and senior care facilities to have an arbitration agreement. Typically, this agreement is included as a clause in the contract which the family signs as their elder loved one is entered into the facility. The agreement states that disputes between the client and the facility must be resolved through arbitration.
Such an agreement is often viewed as unfair to the client or family, as they may be hindered from pursuing a lawsuit in the event of elder abuse. Further, if they attempt to resolve the case via arbitration, the facility could bring on arbitrators that are less than neutral.
It is crucial for families to understand what they are signing, and to have reliable legal protection when they discover that their senior loved one has been harmed. Whether they decide to go through arbitration or to bring the matter to court, they should enlist a legal professional who is dedicated to real families instead of institutions and companies.
Fiduciary abuse or fraud
A fiduciary refers to a person with legal power to hold or manage assets of another person. It is usually a trustee in a trust, but it can also be a person with a power of attorney, a financial advisor, or even a legal family member.
For seniors, it is vital to choose a trustworthy fiduciary, especially if the senior’s hard-earned assets are placed in a trust intended to provide for their family in the long-term. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous fiduciaries use their power to unethically or illegally benefit from the assets they manage. This practice is called fiduciary abuse.
Seniors or families who have been victimized by fiduciary abuse are entitled to pursue a civil lawsuit. However, mediation or arbitration may help in resolving the matter before it grows into a highly contentious and costly court case. Families may opt for these alternatives especially to prevent further financial strain.
Contact The Schofner Law Firm
If you are interested in mediation or arbitration for your Elder Law case, contact attorney Ted Schofner. For more than 14 years now, he has been a Florida Supreme Court Certified Civil Circuit Court Mediator/Arbitrator, with an emphasis on Fiduciary Fraud and Abuse, Probate/Trust Mediations, and Foreclosure. He was also one of the selected arbitrators in one of the first-ever arbitrated nursing home cases in Florida, Newhouse v. IHS Riverfront.
Beyond Mr. Schofner’s intensive experience, his compassion for elders and their families is what makes him highly trusted in the Tampa Bay area.
Talk to Ted Schofner today by calling 1-800-891-9996 or through our online contact form.
2117 Indian Rocks Road, Largo, FL 33774
Mr. Schofner is licensed and admitted to the Bars of the State of Florida, Illinois, and the District of Columbia.
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