Creative Alternatives to the Courtroom

Mediators: The Swiss Army Knife of Divorce

Today I’m featuring an article by a colleague of mine named Martin Kranitz. Martin, a mediator in Maryland, has obtained certification from the Maryland Council for Dispute Resolution, one of the first organizations to provide mediator certification based on demonstrated performance rather than just education and mediation courses taken.  In this piece, Martin discusses one of the many functions a mediator can play, unbeknownst to many people. You can read more about him at

I recently got a call just now from a lady who wanted to know if I could help with estate planning. I explained that I am not an estate planner, rather I am an estate-planning mediator. That means I help people discuss how their estate would be dispersed to family, and sometimes other beneficiaries. It is then up to estate planners to figure out a way to make that happen in the most expedient and useful fashion.

I explained to the caller that my experience is fundamental to my process. For instance, the fact that most problems occur when the people with the "stuff" don't communicate with the people who are expecting the stuff — and the wrong stuff goes to the wrong people. 

My job is to help people have a conversation about who needs what stuff, and how to maximize the benefit to all concerned. These conversations often also include an opportunity for children and other beneficiaries to thank the parents for their kindness and generosity, as well as giving the parents the opportunity to thank their children.

Sadly, the caller didn't seem to get it. She said she was just looking for a financial planner to tell her what to do. She didn't understand that one of the most important things that a parent can do at the end of life is to make sure they don't burden their children. Often a situation develops in which the surviving relatives start a war and destroy the remaining family because of an impression, often mistaken, that, "Mom always loved you best." The moral is don’t let this happen to your family!

Martin Kranitz, Ma.