PROBATE ADR PROGRAM

Many probate disputes can be resolved using alternative dispute resolution or “ADR.” You can use ADR to resolve:

  • Estate distribution cases with many parties
  • Will contests
  • Trust disputes
  • Conservatorship conflicts
  • The relevant local rule is Division IV, Probate Dept., 4.1 (D)

ADR is usually faster, cheaper and less stressful than taking a case to trial. ADR also lets you resolve your disputes in a more private environment.

The Multi-Option ADR Project (“MAP”) has prepared this Probate ADR Panelist List of mediators, arbitrators and neutral evaluators to help you with your case. The list gives you contact information and hourly fees for each panelist. A list of all probate panelists by area of subject matter expertise is also available.

You and the other parties can use this list to select an experienced, trained ADR neutral. After you and the other parties chose an ADR neutral then you schedule a session directly with the neutral’s office. Please tell your ADR neutral this is a San Mateo County MAP referral.

You can also choose an ADR neutral who is not on this list as long as all the parties agree to the same person.

You and the other parties will pay the costs and fees for ADR directly to the neutral. Usually, the parties split the fees.

If you don’t have enough money to pay the fees, ask the ADR Program Coordinator if you are eligible for financial aid through the MAP program. If you want financial aid, you must apply first – before you select your ADR Provider.

After selecting your ADR provider, you have 21 days to fill out and file the Probate Stipulation and Order To ADR form. This lets the court know about the ADR provider you selected and the date of your first session.

Within 10 days of completing ADR, you and your lawyer (if you have one) must fill out a Probate Client Evaluation form and an Probate Evaluation by Attorney Form and send or fax the forms to the MAP offices.

What if I can’t afford to pay for ADR services?

If you have little or no income, you can apply for financial aid.

How do I ask for financial aid for ADR services?

Fill out the MAP ADR Financial Aid Application. Court ADR staff will not share your information with the other parties.

What if a judge has already approved my Application for Waiver of Costs and Fees?

You do not have to fill out the Financial Aid Application. Just attach a copy of the judge’s Order regarding your Application For Waiver of Fees and Costs to your financial aid application.

How does the ADR staff decide if I qualify for financial aid?

The ADR staff uses federal poverty guidelines to decide if you qualify for financial aid. ADR staff will look at the special circumstances of each case. If your income is more than the federal poverty guidelines, the ADR Office may ask you to pay some part of the usual ADR fees on a sliding scale.

Do the other parties in the case have to help pay for my fees?

No. The other parties never have to pay more than their share of the ADR fees unless they choose to voluntarily do so.

Is there a limit to the number of ADR sessions I can get at a lower cost?

Yes. If you qualify, you can get up to 6 hours of ADR services at a lower cost.

Do I apply for financial aid before selecting a neutral?

Yes. It’s a two step process. First, you must apply and we will let you know if you qualify.

If I qualify for financial aid, how do I select a neutral?

You and the other parties select 4 names from a special panelist list that has ADR neutrals who are available for limited fee cases. After the parties select 4 possible neutrals, they submit these names to the ADR Program. The ADR Program will assign one of these panelists to be the neutral for your case and will inform you who it will be.

Do we have to use the ADR office to select our neutral?

Yes. If you qualify for financial aid, the ADR Program will choose one of the four names you select from the list. Please do not contact the neutral until the ADR office lets you know who was assigned to your case.

Do all of the panelists agree to provide lower cost services?

Yes. All of our panelists are willing to accept these cases because they believe that every one should have the right to use ADR. The ADR staff tries to distribute these cases fairly amongst the panelists.

Do we have to notify the ADR office about our ADR neutral?

Yes. After the ADR Program tells you who has been assigned to your case, you and the other parties have 14 days to file a Stipulation and Order To ADR (Civil Cases) or Probate Stipulation & Order to ADR (Probate Cases) with the court. This form tells the court not only the name of your ADR provider but also date of the scheduled ADR session.

How do we schedule with the ADR provider?

After the ADR office tells you who your neutral will be, you and the other parties must contact the ADR provider directly and set up a time for your ADR session.

Please tell the ADR provider you were referred by the San Mateo Superior Court’s Multi-Option ADR Project.