Mediated Settlement Agreement
A mediated settlement agreement is often used to “ink” a deal in a Florida probate or trust dispute. IF the parties settle. They are contracts. But how do you enforce your deal if the other side is not doing what they promised to do? We have previously written about mediation agreements. Now, let’s focus on how Florida law does not let people get out of signed deals.
If you are involved in a Florida estate or trust dispute, you are going to be ordered to attend a mediation before trial. It’s a serious settlement conference.
Who’s at the mediation? Typically you and your lawyers. The other side or sides, and their lawyers. And a mediator.
Who is the mediator? The mediator is a neutral, objective third party who is there to try to broker peace. To discuss settlement. To foster compromise. Many retired judges mediate. Many experienced probate litigators are also asked to mediate disputes because of their vast experience and expertise.
What is perhaps the #1 rule to a successful mediation? The parties have to want to settle.
And any deal is typically reduced to a written contract. And everyone signs on the dotted line.
Sometimes, there is a prevailing party attorneys fees provision. If you have to go back to court, the prevailing party can get reimbursed, from the other side, your attorneys fees and costs.
Sometimes, mediated settlement agreements are subject to court approval. Many times, that court, if it approves it, will reserve, or retain, jurisdiction to enforce the deal. If someone welches, you have a court to go back to.
Enforcing Your Deal — no buyer’s remorse
Once a written mediated settlement agreement is signed, that’s your deal. And you have to live up to it. You can’t just get out of it if you have buyer’s remorse. After all, hindsight is always 20/20. No “rearview” mirror review. No “Monday morning Quarterbacking.” Why?
‘Cause a deal is a deal!! And you can’t welch on your deals ! Think about it: if you could get out of a written, signed contract, then that renders contracts meaningless. And contracts are not meaningless. They are full of meaning, obligations, responsibilities, and rights.
In Florida, contracts arrive at the courthouse door with a presumption of correctness.
And don’t say that you didn’t read it or understand it. That’s a terrible excuse. Florida contract law states that you are assumed to have read it.
This is America ! And America gives you the freedom to contract. And, as the Palm Beach Appeals Court (the 4th DCA) says: the right to contract includes the right to make a bad deal !
Back in 2015, Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in the case of Sugar v. Estate of Stern. Anyone faced with a settlement agreement, and someone trying now to avoid it, can read what can happen.