What Are Alternative Dispute Resolutions For Siblings Contesting a Trust?

When there are siblings contesting a trust in California, deep-seated tensions may bubble to the surface if someone feels slighted by an inheritance.

Siblings may misinterpret inheritance as a metric for how much their parents loved them.  This presents an opportunity to make your sibling feel hurt, rejected, or angry. Disputes are, unfortunately, common – but taking siblings to court should always be your last resort.

At Gokal Law Group, our attorneys have decades of experience helping siblings avoid California trust litigation to preserve their family ties. Your ideal outcome is always our top priority. Learn common alternatives to litigation by reading on.

Common Causes for Siblings Contesting a Trust in California

Several situations result in siblings contesting a trust in California. In some situations, siblings may feel like one is favored, resulting in them inheriting more than the others. Other times, second families and the creator’s extended family can come out of the woodwork and feel entitled to a piece of the pot.

Regardless of your situation, these contentious circumstances don’t have to result in taking siblings to court. A neutral party can often help find alternative dispute resolutions (ARDs).

“Family dynamics and deep-rooted rivalries make disputes between siblings common. Emotions are often high after someone passes away and inheritance is on the line. It is a perfect storm for disputes. From issues when the trust was created or amended, to issues in administration, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) saves everyone time, money, and emotional exhaustion,” explained Alison Gokal, a partner and California trust litigation lawyer at Gokal Law Group with decades of experience helping families find ADRs.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions for Siblings Contesting a Trust

After losing a loved one, a family should be there for each other, but litigation can cause irreparable damage to relationships. The primary ADRs people use to preserve family ties are mediation, family arbitration, and neutral evaluation.


When siblings are contesting a trust in California, mediation is one of the top ADRs people use. All siblings know that when emotions boil over, sometimes sitting down and talking is all it takes to find a solution.

During mediation, siblings sit with a neutral, trained third party (the mediator) without decision-making power to facilitate discussion.

“Complex family dynamics and surging emotions make it hard to sit down and see eye-to-eye.  We have worked with countless siblings who don’t believe their counterparts or understand their position. But that’s because they haven’t sat down and had an honest conversation, unclouded by emotion. A mediator helps reframe issues, promote communication, and nudge all parties to a win-win solution,” offered Alison.

Mediation is the most common alternative to litigation among families because it revolves around preserving family ties through cooperation and compromise.

Family Arbitration

Family arbitration is another common ADR when siblings are contesting a trust in California. Family arbitration is similar to mediation with one important distinction: the arbitrator has final decision-making power.

The arbitrator will listen to arguments and evaluate evidence from the embattled siblings. People often seek family arbitration when the issue is complicated and requires an experienced, neutral party to have the final say.

“One important feature is that involved parties elect for the arbitrator’s decision to be ‘binding’ or ‘nonbinding.’ When both parties agree to a ‘binding’ decision, they agree to accept this decision in lieu of a trial,” added Alison. 

Neutral Evaluation

Neutral evaluation is another ADR when there are siblings contesting a trust in California. This ADR is a little different but can be exactly what siblings need.

Here, siblings present their case to an objective “evaluator,” who then provides their unbiased opinion on the strengths and weaknesses of both arguments. Evaluators even advise how the parties can resolve the issue. Still, the evaluator’s opinion is not binding.

The difference is that an “evaluator” is also an expert in the subject matter of the issue. All siblings can attest that sometimes, only a third party with no skin in the game can get through to fighting siblings.

Avoid California Trust Litigation When There Are Siblings Contesting a Trust

Siblings will disagree and argue. It’s part of the deal. But when disagreements and misunderstandings boil over into something more serious, finding ways to minimize tensions and move past it efficiently and effectively is essential for the entire family. When siblings are contesting a trust in California, ADRs can help the family navigate the tumult of this trying time by avoiding taking siblings to court and helping reinforce family ties. At Gokal Law Group, our attorneys boast decades of experience helping families find alternative dispute resolutions, and navigate litigation when a lawsuit becomes unavoidable.

Whether you need ADRs or legal representation, working with a premier trust litigation lawyer is essential to navigating this process. Call us at (949) 753-9100 or contact us to request a case evaluation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *