Mediation and Estate Planning Blog

Mediate versus Filing a Case in the Santa Clara Probate Court: What you Need to Know

If you ever wondered why you should consider mediation, in the first place, to attempt to solve a family conflict with your siblings instead of filling a case in court against them, here are a few tips to help you make an informed decision.

1/ The court system

The numbers

From January 1, 2019 through August 31, 2019, the cases filed in the Santa Clara County Probate Division totaled 1,437. Considering that the court receives approximately 50 filings per week, and approximately 50 new petitions for estate administration each month, this works out to approximately 2,100 cases being filed each year in Santa Clara County. This number includes petitions for probate, conservatorships, guardianships, ex parte petitions (no hearing required), petitions to remove trustees, petitions for accountings and other filings dealing with probate estates and trust administration.

The Judge

There is only one judge assigned to hear probate and trust matters for Santa Clara County. Those cases are heard on a calendar which is called at 9:00 am on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Timeline

Based on California State law (Probate Code section 8003) the Court is supposed to set a day for a hearing not more than 30 days after the petition is filed. However, cases in Santa Clara County are currently being set 90 days after the petition is filed.

If the case is contested and you need to go to trial it could be 2 to 3 years before you get a trial date.

2/ The mediation alternative

Solving Family Disputes Without Going to Court

We at mediation Path Silicon Valley, believe that a court of law is not always suited to solve family issues. In court the judge makes the decision for you. Mediation is voluntary and gives you the unique opportunity to speak and decide for yourself. A judge does not have time to listen to every parties story and try to understand the reasons that lead to a family conflict.

In mediation There is no winner or loser. The mediation process allows the parties to design their own resolution to their dispute resulting in a solution that can benefit everyone.

Mediation is Still Possible Even if you Already are in Trial

This is something lots of parties do not know about. There are many cases that could be mediated while they are still waiting for a hearing, such as: request for accounting, petition for removal of trustee, objections to accountings.. At Mediation Path Silicon Valley we work on a regular basis with family members and their lawyers to help resolve some of the family disputes especially the ones that the judge might consider as being petty and waste of his/ her time but are extremely important to the parties.

Be aware that if you go in front of the probate judge with this kind of request, it is very likely that these cases will be referred by the judge to mediation at the time of the court hearing. In that case the judge will encourage the parties to mediate before the next court hearing.

Also, bear in mind that the judge can schedule a mandatory mediation AKA settlement conference. In this configuration, the mediation is mandatory and the parties and their lawyers will only have three hours to attempt to settle the dispute.

Cheaper, Quicker and More Protective of the Family Future

Whether you already filed a case at the probate court or not, ask yourself how can mediation could help you and your family solve some or all of the issues at stake knowing that mediation is cheaper, quicker and will give more chances to preserve the integrity of your family for the future.

Most importantly keep in mind that:

A mediation can be scheduled within a week or so rather than having to wait at least 3 months to go to court;

A mediation session can last for more than 3 hours if needed. The average time to solve a family conflict in mediation is between 5 to 8 hours.

At Mediation Path Silicon Valley, LLC, we have the experience, the training and the passion to assist parties in reaching a resolution of their disputes. Please contact us if we can be of assistance in working with a family you know to help resolve or manage conflict. We have the passion and the experience to assist families in distress.

Sophia Delacotte