New General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules that have been brought into effect in the EU may have unexpected implications in relation to Wills. andrew

What changes have been made?

The new legislation has been brought in to protect people whose personal information, such as name and address, is held by other parties. It allows people, who are known as “data subjects”, to ask such other parties, known as “data controllers”, to see all information that is being held about them.

How does this affect wills?

A Will typically includes names and addresses for beneficiaries, i.e. those who may inherit on the death of the person signing the Will (known as “the testator”).  A signed Will may be held by the testator at home or by a Solicitor or other professional organisation on behalf of the testator.  Of course, the testator is free to change their Will by adding or removing beneficiaries at any time up to their death. 

With the new GDPR rules stipulating that data controllers have to provide data subjects with any information they are holding on them, this leaves a lot of individuals and companies wondering what the protocol for this unprecedented situation is.

The Verdict

Although no formal guidance has been released, the Information Commissioner’s Office (the UK Government body with responsibility in relation to Data Protection) has replied to a question raised on this topic. 

The ICO has confirmed that there are no GDPR implications for Will beneficiaries, testators or professionals while the testator is still alive because the Will can be changed at that stage. 

However, the situation may be different after the testator’s death.  At that stage, the testator’s Executors could be considered data controllers.  That may mean the Executors, or Solicitors acting on their behalf, require to advise beneficiaries named in the Will of their rights as data subjects.

This is another example of the numerous issues which should be taken into account when a Will is prepared to ensure that there are no unexpected consequences on the testator’s death.

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