Nine Things to Remember When Mediating Inheritance Disputes

Good news. An article I wrote a few years go for Family Mediation Quarterly on mediating estate disputes is being re-published as part of an American Bar Association book called Mediation for Estate Planners. Many thanks to the editor, Prof. Susan Gary of the University of Oregon Law School, for including it.

Ending Business Decision Gridlock: Considering a Business Divorce

When a business owner works alone, the decisions, successes or mistakes are all the responsibility of one individual. He or she is the boss. When there are other partners involved, however, disagreements over business decisions are both likely to occur and difficult to manage. Whether the business operates as a corporation, a limited liability company or a partnership, arguments over important business decisions can halt the flow of work and generate tension between partners. When disputes with partners are impacting your ability to operate effectively, it may be in your best interest to contact a business lawyer in Massachusetts (if you are in the greater Boston area) to consider your options. Considering whether business divorce makes sense – that is, separating from a business partner – may prompt the partners to be able to discuss critical issues and determine next steps for the company. People can make better business decisions if they understand that they have choices and that each choice can lead to different legal outcomes.

Rearranging the operating structure of the business may solve some problems. If owners have different spheres of day-to-day responsibility, their interactions may become less stressful. Other problems cannot be solved so easily. One or more of the partners may want or need to be bought out. Depending on the company’s documentation (such as shareholder agreements or buy-sell agreements), the buyout discussions can be complex. How do you value the company? On the level of negotiating dynamics, do both the partner leaving and the partner staying have such an identification with the company that direct discussions are almost impossible? If the partners cannot agree, they are often surprised at the limited range of options that a judge has when dealing with these situations. It is rarely in anyone’s interest for the business to be put into receivership.

Even though partner problems are as common in business as they are in marriages, not all businesses end up in business divorce. A business lawyer can help you explore your situation and learn about your alternatives.

Early Out of Court Settlement: Mediation And Collaborative Law in International Business Disputes

As a US party to an international business dispute, one of your concerns is how to resolve the conflict quickly and effectively so you can get on with your business. If your contract has an international arbitration clause, you may be in the best position to make an informed decision about how to proceed. Since litigating in a foreign country is hard, most of the world has signed the New York Convention (officially, the 1958 United Nations Convention on Recognition of Foreign Arbitral Awards).   This treaty makes arbitration awards often more enforceable in the other party’s country than anything a trial court might award. The arbitration hearing itself may be in a neutral location, too. However, binding arbitration can be a difficult and expensive process. If both parties know what their best alternative to a negotiated agreement involves, they are more likely to try to negotiate a solution in good faith.

If you are in the Boston area, consulting with an international business lawyer in Massachusetts can be a wise decision. Many disputes in this arena can be successfully resolved by using another form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or Collaborative Law. When used properly, mediation or Collaborative Law can help parties to an international business dispute manage their risk and save time and money. In mediation, a neutral third party helps bridge the gap between the parties. In Collaborative Law, specially trained lawyers work, either on their own or with their existing counsel, to structure the negotiation process for a positive outcome. Unlike litigation, mediation and Collaborative Law give parties the opportunity to work together and generate a solution that is more closely aligned with their specific needs.

Mediation and Collaborative Law offer a great deal of flexibility for parties to international business disputes. They can be much more effective and efficient than an adjudicated process or even negotiating on your own. Plus, parties that would like to do future business together often find that working through their issues in mediation or through a Collaborative process pave the path for improved communication and a better working relationship. There are almost always alternatives.

Reducing the Impact of Divorce on The Family Business

Going through a divorce in Boston can be overwhelming on its own, but facing this challenge when there’s a family business involved makes the process all the more complicated. Knowing how to minimize the impact of the divorce on the business can be helpful in order to continue moving forward personally and professionally.

The business will be valued during the process of determining assets. A financial expert will be brought in to review the books and questions could be asked about the business practices. This business valuation process can also be expensive and time-consuming in itself, so go in knowing what to expect. It can also be frustrating for employees to spend their time researching the information necessary to go through the financial valuation.

One of the most important ways to minimize the influence on the family business is to retain Boston legal counsel early. Knowing what to expect throughout the process is helpful and can also reduce anxiety about how the business will be divided in the end.

If you already own a business, it can be helpful to include details about it in a prenuptial agreement. This can protect the business in the long run. Where there are multiple business owners, a shareholder or partnership agreement can also outline what will happen if one of the members gets divorced. This is a good way to separate business interests from personal interests of a spouse.

If you don’t want to get trapped in selling the business, sometimes a settlement can be paid out over time so that the business interests are preserved while still meeting the terms of a negotiation. Make sure you’ve had a meeting with a Boston attorney to review all your documents and discuss business protection.