Kathleen Wareham Dispute Resolution Services
Jacob Menashe, Attorney

Facilitating Meetings with Fiduciaries, Attorneys, Families, Business Entities and Boards


A facilitated meeting is a meaningful opportunity for family members, business associates, board members, attorneys, and fiduciaries to explore and understand potential areas of conflict and to develop solutions. It is a particularly helpful dispute-resolution method when the parties have ongoing relationships.

How Facilitation Works
The process begins when participants meet with the facilitator and develop an agenda.  The facilitator is a neutral, impartial chair of the meetings. The facilitator is not a decision maker and does not impose ideas for solutions but does help the participants explore options.

In facilitated meetings, Kathleen Wareham exerts a calming influence and describes the issues and conflict with compassion but with directness. Using her skills, training, and experience as a facilitator, Kathleen helps the parties to identify the problems and move into a productive, future-oriented, problem-solving discussion. Kathleen has a keen talent for guiding parties into working on areas they can change and accepting those they cannot change.

In cases involving elder law, trust and estate, probate, and guardianship disputes she has facilitated meetings with attorneys, personal representatives, trustees, guardians, and family members to identify and discuss sources of conflict and to develop creative solutions without the need for litigation.
Kathleen brings to the table a wealth of knowledge about fiduciaries and about families in conflict over trusts, probates, estate planning, powers of attorney, discharge planning and care planning, and health-care and end-of-life decision making. During such facilitated meetings, Kathleen’s role is to help participants to:

  • Understand and accept the various roles in what is often new, uncharted territory: the death or diminishing capacity of a loved one.
  • Explore options for addressing a loved one’s needs.
  • Broaden their perspectives, share information and opinions, learn from one another, solve problems and reach agreements.
  • Avoid litigation (such as petitions for removal, petitions for accounting, and objections to fees) and minimize the emotional and financial toll of the adversarial legal system.

In cases involving business entities and boards, Kathleen as facilitated board retreats and business meetings regarding leadership transition, succession planning, board development and realignment or confirmation of goals, values and missions. She helps business owners and board members communicate and develop solutions to meet the needs of both the entities and the individuals.

Why Facilitated Meetings Are Needed

Misunderstandings and conflict are common among families involved in the administration of trusts, estates and guardianships, and among owners of closely held or family owned business entities.

With closely held businesses, systems of decision-making that work for day to day business management or long term strategic planning may not work for conflict resolution. Individuals who work effectively together for the benefit of clients or stakeholders may need help working together to sort out their individual interests. A facilitator helps the individuals address high stakes, financial and emotional, allowing each individual to speak up and be heard, and supporting an environment where the business owners seek and find common ground while sorting out their differences.

With trusts, estates, guardianships and powers of attorney, fiduciaries have duties concerning money (e.g., estate or trust administration, including budgeting, investments, expenses, and distributions) and health care (e.g., care planning, discharge planning, and end-of-life decision making). A fiduciary may be called upon to determine what an incapacitated person would choose if he or she could express a choice. Or, a fiduciary may need to make a decision based on what he or she judges to be in an incapacitated person’s or beneficiary’s best interest or a fiduciary's duty. These decisions can be about intimate, sensitive, life-and-death issues that strike at the heart of people’s most deeply held values. Trust and estate administration decisions can be particularly challenging with complex family dynamics. Differing perceptions and opinions about privacy, boundaries, independence and care are common causes of conflict, and differing views of the wishes of a decedent or incapacitated person can be strongly held. What’s more, because many people can be affected by the decisions, they may be inclined to question the fiduciary’s performance. During such difficult times, communication among family members is imperative, yet family dynamics may be so complex and emotions so strong that communication may not be possible. A facilitated meeting can provide a calm opportunity to sort through significant and challenging issues. A facilitated meeting can assist in trust and estate administration after death, and during life and illness care planning, discharge planning, budgeting, distribution planning and valuation, and other issues faced by family members and fiduciaries. Finally, family members and fiduciaries have different needs—for privacy, for respect, or for acknowledgment. These needs, which are often underlying causes of conflict and litigation, can best be addressed through facilitated meetings so that misunderstandings and conflict can be minimized or resolved.

The Benefits of Facilitated Meetings
The facilitated meeting process is less expensive, more inclusive, and more respectful than traditional litigation. It is more creative, allowing solutions and remedies that a judicial process can’t. With Kathleen’s guidance, the participants are able to communicate effectively and directly; in fact, participants are often surprised by their ability to discuss issues and acknowledge sources of conflict that have seemed too difficult or overwhelming to confront. The facilitated meeting is an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings, exchange information, and develop solutions and plans so that litigation and more significant legal expenses can be avoided.

Helpful Resources
Professionals: Teaming up with a Facilitator

Facilitated Meetings FAQ

Kathleen Wareham Dispute Resolution Services