Bill Patterson: ADLS Trust Law committee

This profile is part of a series on ADLS committee convenors

Bill Patterson

Bill Patterson

Where do you work, what’s your role?
I am a partner at Patterson Hopkins, a firm I started with my wife, Robyn Hopkins, after I left MinterEllisonRuddWatts in March 2003.

We look after private clients, with an international focus on trusts, and also handle estate and trust litigation and advice.

Where did you study?
I did my LLB at the University of Auckland then, 15 years later, went back and did a Master of Laws.

My area of study was estate planning, tax and land law with John Prebble and Don McMorland. When John Prebble, a senior lecturer, left the university he asked me to take over the teaching of his estate planning paper.

At the time I was teaching a paper in the professionals course. In the end I lectured parttime for about 20 years.

What’s been your career to date?
After graduation I started my career with the Public Trust, in Auckland.

It was a very popular place for budding lawyers as it had excellent training and a legal library. As a side note, many magistrates and judges in those days had worked at the Public Trust early in their careers.

It was the only government department with a purely legal focus because it dealt with estates and trusts. It also paid juniors well; more than law firms!

I moved around a bit during that time, first to Timaru, then to Wellington and finally back to Auckland.

In the 1979 LLM class was Jack Angland, a partner with Norman Shieff in Shieff Angland.

Jack told me that Norman was thinking of retiring, and asked if I’d be interested in joining the firm, which I did, in 1980.

In 1987 I moved to Rudd Watts and Stone (now MinterEllisonRuddWatts) and I was a partner there until 2003.

How long have you been a member of ADLS?
Since around 1974, when I moved back to Auckland.

How long have you been involved with ADLS committees, and which committees have you worked with?
It was really Brian Keene (former president of ADLS) that got me involved. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would be willing to convene a new committee that ADLS was thinking of forming as there was a lot happening in trust were a lot of trust cases coming through as well. I joined as the inaugural convenor of that committee and a whole lot of enthusiastic people joined up!

I have also been the chair of the Cradle to Grave conference since 2008.

Why is committee work important?
The advantage of committees is that they get a group of specialists and enthusiasts in the area together, and give it focus and attention to provide guidance to practitioners.

We’ve also published LawNews articles and are now arranging trust law CPD seminars.

How do ADLS committees make a difference?
As an example, our committee focuses on current trust law and upcoming changes.

The new Trusts Act is less than 15 months away and we want to educate lawyers on what they should be doing before it comes into effect.

Our first CPD seminar on the new Act is in November. It will essentially be a checklist of the significant changes for lawyers and accountants.

The new Act will change trust practice dramatically and it will take all of 12 months for lawyers to get ready for it.

Getting up to speed will most likely involve reviewing every trust deed they have and meetings with every trustee. It’s a big shake-up and a major change to legislation, and practitioners need to understand what the rules mean and how they affect the way they practise.

If we’re doing our job properly, everyone will understand what they need to be ready for.

What’s been the most notable achievement or biggest focus of your committee over the past few years? Why was that important?
As we’re a new committee (formed in 2016), our focus has been on getting up and running, and on looking at the proposed changes to trust law.

We really started to focus when the Law Commission’s preferred issues paper came out with draft legislation; we made submissions to the select committee.

We have also looked at and discussed some of the court decisions on trusts.

Some of the decisions looking at relationship property (where there is a trust aspect) have been quite bizarre. The court has been trust busting in the property relationship area for a while.

Apart from the educational aspects I have referred to, our next focus will be the upcoming changes to the Property (Relationships) Act.

The Law Commission is proposing radical changes which will affect trusts and family law. That’s the next major change coming.

What would you say to anyone thinking of becoming involved in an ADLS committee?
They do great lunches!

On a serious note, committees provide the opportunity to chew the fat with like-minded practitioners so everyone can deepen their understanding. ADLS committees, and being part of them, benefit the profession, provide a personal benefit to committee members and are a great forum for collegiality.

What’s the biggest issue facing your specialist practice area at the moment? And how does that affect lawyers, their clients and New Zealand?
That’s the upcoming changes to trust law.

New Zealand has a large number of trusts which the Law Commission once estimated at more than 500,000. These changes will have a big impact. So too will the changes to the PRA.

What’s the best-kept secret about ADLS committees?
The amount of work that ADLS committees do, both in law reform and educating the profession, and the support ADLS staff provide to committees.

To find out more about ADLS committees, contact Melissa Fini: e:melissa.fini@adls.org.nz

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