“Andrea” was a teenager when her grandmother died. Among the many memories of time spent together, Andrea thought often about the simple glass bowl filled with M&Ms in the entryway of her grandmother’s house. After the funeral, the house was sold and the personal belongings were divided among Andrea’s mother and her siblings. But no one could track down the M&M bowl that held such sentimental value for Andrea.

Several decades passed, and now Andrea’s mother, Mary, is moving into an assisted living facility. In order to help her children cope with their grandmother’s aging, and to avoid the experience Andrea had has a teenager, the family sat down together, in the presence of a neutral, trained Mediator, to tell stories and reminisce about the sentimental things in Mary’s house. It was an uplifting experience, one which actually brought the family closer together, and at the same time, the Mediator was able to help everyone understand the sensitivity of the issues.

A Mediator will encourage the participants to stay focused, ask questions to be certain that everyone is understood, and move the conversation along so that no one remains stuck. As matters get resolved and ultimate distribution options are decided upon, the Mediator will provide a written record of the agreements reached, and it will become part of the trust documentation. If appropriate, all the parties to the family mediation may be asked to sign the mediation agreement.

A wonderful feature of a family mediation is its flexibility. Although decisions are made in the best interests of the family at the time, circumstances may change. New family members may be added through marriage, birth, adoption, or otherwise, and sometimes the initial participants are no longer members of the family, through death, divorce, or estrangement. In any such scenario, the agreements reached by the family in mediation may always be modified.