Family law: tips & traps for accountants

William Sloan and Paula Wilkinson
It’s a sad fact of life that many of your clients will go through a separation, divorce or de facto relationship breakdown. Despite the regularity of these issues, practitioners are faced with varying degrees of uncertainty on how best to proceed when helping their clients through what can be a difficult time. 

We spoke with William Sloan, Senior Associate with Kim Wilson & Co, about his ‘Tips & traps for accountants' presentation (with Paula Wilkinson, a Director of Kim Wilson & Co) at the upcoming Family Law Intensive in Perth on 20 July 2017.

Both William and Paula are accredited by the Law Society of Western Australia as specialists in the field of family law. William practises exclusively in this field with a particular focus on financial matters, while Paula’s practice involves complex property and parenting matters. 

William said: “In our session we are presenting a case study that will apply, in a practical way, some of the technical points to emerge from the other sessions earlier in the day. The case study will also introduce and cover some new points not covered by the other presenters”.

Designed to provide delegates with an understanding of the legal steps, from separation through to divorce and property settlement, the Intensive includes discussion of the available tax concessions and how tax is dealt with by the Family Court.

William said: “One of the emerging trends in decisions coming out of the Family Court is an increasing willingness on the part of the Judges to make referrals to the Australian Taxation Office and also to make referrals to professional regulators and complaint bodies. Accountants and other advisers acting for parties who are going through a divorce need to take care that they do not become collateral damage. The aim of our session will be to give delegates some practical tips that they can take back and apply in their day-to-day work when dealing with issues like this.”

“This area is full of potential to become caught in conflicts of interest. Where an accountant or other adviser has been acting for one or perhaps many entities over a number of years and parties then go through a divorce, there can be complex and sometimes not always obvious conflict traps. Identifying and managing conflicts arising from divorce situations will be one of the topics covered in the session.”

Asked about the takeaways from the session for delegates, William said: “There is a real opportunity for accountants and other advisers who have been acting for parties for many years to leverage from the existing knowledge they have about the way the parties’ current affairs are structured and arranged and also the details of historical transactions. Not infrequently there are disputes, for example, about whether funds are (or are not) a loan. Accountants and other advisers may well have on their files and in their historical records documents and other information that would assist in resolving that dispute. There are many other similar examples. Clients can benefit from the efficiency of an accountant or other adviser who already has knowledge of those matters being in communication with the lawyer that they have acting for them in the family law matter”.

William has served a number of terms as an elected member of the Executive of the Family Law Practitioners’ Association of WA, and is a member of various professional bodies including the Committee of the WA branch of the Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners, the Law Society of WA, the Family Law Section of the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators.

Co-presenter Paula Wilkinson was a founding Director of Kim Wilson & Co in 1998. Paula has been recognised by her peers as a 'Preeminent family and divorce lawyer (WA)' in the September 2016 Doyle's Guide Rankings. An adjunct lecturer teaching graduate courses for the LL.M Family Law program (NSW College of Laws Australia), Paula has also been elected to the Council of the Law Society of Western Australia, commencing 2017.

Find out more about William and Paula’s session, and the rest of the program, on our website. Join us for the Family Law Intensive, 20 July 2017 at Crown Perth.

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