Rule 75.1 of the Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the mandatory mediation of estates, trusts, and substitute decisions matters which are commenced in Toronto, Ottawa, or the County of Essex.
Rule 75.1 provides that, except in a contested Passing of Accounts, the Applicant shall make a motion, in the same way as under R. 75.06 (Application or Motion for Directions), seeking directions for the conduct of the mediation. Rule 75.1.05(2) provides that the Notice of Motion for mediation directions is to be served within 30 days after the last day for serving a Notice of Appearance.
In terms of who actually conducts the mandatory mediation session, R. 75.1.06 provides that the mediator can be a person chosen from the list for the county by agreement of the designated parties, a person assigned from the list by the mediation co-ordinator for the county (at the request of a designated party), or a person who is not named on the list, if the designated parties consent.
Most clients are vaguely familiar with the court process and think they know what to expect - they know it involves a judge, their lawyer, a trial, and a courtroom. Not many clients however know what to expect at mediation. As a result, it is important for counsel to take time to describe the process, answer any questions, and prepare their client for what they can expect to happen at mediation. By doing so, counsel can help reduce their client's anxiety about the attendance.
Estate mediations can be a very emotionally draining experience. Apart from any legal foundation to the dispute, many intangible factors tend to also be present in estate matters. Jealously, anger, and greed are difficult emotions to overcome and can be sever stumbling blocks in settlement. Sometimes, steering clients away from the emotional aspects and towards the financial implications of continued litigation assists them in moving past those types of difficulties.
Clients need to be assured that the mediation process is completely confidential and that anything that is said or admitted cannot be used against them at a later date. The fact that there will be no public record of the proceeding may provide some clients with the comfort to say things that might otherwise not be said. In addition, clients can be advised that any information they provide to the mediator to try to help him or her understand their position better can remain confidential, and that the mediator will not disclose any information unless expressly authorized by the client. Having the opportunity to participate in open and frank discussions may be the key to resolving outstanding issues, issues which might not otherwise be addressed in the litigation process.
In jurisdictions not governed by mandatory estate mediation, r. 75.06(2)(f.1) allows a judge hearing an Application or Motion for directions to direct that a mediation session be conducted nonetheless. Counsel may want to keep this provision in mind when otherwise seeking directions in respect of a matter which may, in whole or in part, benefit from a mediation session.
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