As a Mediator and a Family Business Expert, it is always fascinating to explain to people why there is such an overlap in these two fields. 

Let’s think about it, Conflict and Family Business…there may be some who will instantly see how these two areas mesh together.  For others, you have to believe me when I tell you that even the most harmonious Family Business has a few skirmishes they deal with from time to time.

I am going to spin a very different idea about how these two sectors cross over.

Recently I was performing a multi-party mediation. Things were heating up over mom’s estate who just passed away. The estate consisted of three properties:  mom’s condo, a Florida home, and the family cottage. There were substantial invested (liquid) assets, numerous family heirlooms, and art. There was a current will.

As you can imagine, the group was still emotional sine they were still grieving the loss of their matriarch.

How do they move forward?

As with most estate mediations, it becomes a “Mom or Dad promised that to me.” There is lots of talk around the various “side deals”. And as we know, if it is not in writing, then it must be assumed that it didn’t happen.

This family was in an escalating conflict. At each discussion, it got more heated. The siblings who previously got along fairly well now were having a hard time being in each other’s company.

An email came in from one of the lawyers. Can you help this family out? After a brief discussion, we got everyone together.  

There are 4 siblings and 2 were legally represented. No one really knew how this was going to go. The room was filled with tension and everyone was extremely guarded.

Then I BROKE THE ICE. I explained how we would be a lot more communicative and successful if we treat Mom’s estate as a business.

It was now their Family Business and they were now all partners in this business. 

The guards came down and the inquiring questions (vs. accusatory ones) started coming out. 

Those who were represented by their lawyers were becoming a bit more collaborative and the siblings started being friendly once again. They are now partners in a new Family Business and are acting like business partners.

This story is still continuing, but the family is beginning a meaningful and respectful liquidation of some assets and working well together in managing the other assets.
They have regular “management meetings”, regular disbursements and most importantly, they are having frequent family gatherings, which is what Mom and Dad would have wanted.

So are you or your clients struggling with your new “Family Business/Estate”?

Let’s have a chat and find a breakthrough that works for you or your clients.