GDPR – Invitation to Members

Emily Deane TEP

Even though the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on 25 May this year in the UK there is still widespread confusion around its application to the private client industry.

STEP has formed a Data Protection Impact Group with the objective of reviewing the GDPR’s impact in relation to the trust and estate industry. The group would like to collate some of the practical issues that have arisen and submit them to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) with the intention of the ICO addressing some of the gaps in the guidance and legislation.

Tell us your views

STEP would like to invite members to provide examples of how the ICO guidance/legislation may be difficult to apply in practice, so that we can present these issues to the ICO and underline that the impact is potentially far-reaching.

Issues that have been identified include:

  • Firms will be holding large amounts of personal data on clients and non-clients relating to their wills, family trusts and estates. Information (‘special category data’) on individuals other than clients is generally required in order to carry out the client’s instructions, for example a will. However as it stands a firm will have to obtain consent from third parties for this information because there are no express exemptions that apply in Article 9(2). Unlike the express exemption for ‘legal advice’ in the DPA 1998.
  • Subject access requests have become a first port of call now for potential beneficiaries who are seeking further information about a will or trust. It is currently very difficult for an advisor to gauge how much information they can provide or restrict and what the applicable justifications are for doing so.
  • The majority of private client firms in the UK will also undertake international work. File notes and legal documents containing personal data will need to be sent to third countries. If this data applies to a client it is possible to reply upon their consent to the transfer, however when the data relates to non-client data subjects then their consent is required. There does not appear to be an exemption in the GDPR that deals with this common occurrence.
  • Firms are currently uncertain as to whether they should destroy/delete some of the personal data that they hold, for example, some personal information that is held on a family member could be more pertinent to one person than another. The firm may be exposing itself to risk by destroying data that become relevant at a later date.
  • There is uncertainty as to whether all potential beneficiaries of a trust or estate should be provided with a copy of the trust’s privacy policy, even when the settlor or testator was adamant that they did not want the individual, who may be vulnerable, to know that they may benefit at some stage.

STEP is hopeful that by providing the ICO with some working examples then it might recognise and review the difficulties that advisors are facing in this connection. We aim to provide members with a best practice position when further information is available.

We would very much value your input. Please send your examples to standards@step.org.

Emily Deane TEP is STEP Technical Counsel

Are you a client of Universal Wealth Preservation?

STEP has received an unprecedented number of enquiries regarding Mr Steven Long and the companies of which he is a Director, namely Universal Tax Solutions of Dencora House, 34 White House Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 5LT, which traded as Universal Wealth Preservation. Associated companies include Universal Asset Protection Ltd and Universal Trustees Ltd.

Mr Steven Long, Mrs Melanie Long and Universal Trustees Ltd act as Professional Trustees. Universal assisted clients with drafting and managing trusts, wills and lasting powers of attorney (LPAs), as well as providing secure storage of original documents.

STEP suspended Mr Long’s membership on 1 November 2017, and he was permanently excluded on 5 October 2018, subject to his right of appeal, following the completion of the disciplinary investigation into a number of the complaints received (updated 8 October 2018).

Universal Asset Protection entered into compulsory liquidation in May 2018, with the business premises of Universal Wealth Preservation having closed several months previously. The company website has since been taken down. We understand that clients have experienced great difficulties in contacting Universal, with no responses to emails, letters or phone calls.

We have been advised that some clients have been concerned about the management of their trusts, with delays in estate administration and payments from the trusts being made, in addition to being unable to ascertain the whereabouts of their assets, or retrieve original wills and LPAs held in secure storage.

Universal clients now face the realistic prospect that they are unlikely to retrieve original documents or to recover cash assets.

STEP is aware that Suffolk Constabulary is now investigating, and it has seized all documents that were held at Dencora House.

What should you do now?

STEP is advising Universal clients to:

  • Seek independent legal advice from an experienced trust and estate practitioner on your options, which may include how to make an application to the courts to replace Mr and Mrs Long/Universal Asset Protection Ltd as trustees, making new wills and LPAs
  • Check whether Lasting or Enduring Powers of Attorney have been registered with the Office of the Public Guardian – call the OPG on 0300 456 0300
  • If not in possession of an original will, make a new one without delay. In situations where someone has already passed away, we understand that Probate Registries are aware of the situation with Universal and registrars will accept a Rule 54 application for a copy of the will to be used. In circumstances where the Universal directors are appointed as executors, registrars will accept a Section 116 application to appoint new executors.
  • Contact the Land Registry to ascertain in whose name your property is registered. Call the Land Registry on 0300 006 0411. We understand that the Land Registry is aware of the issues with Universal.
  • If appropriate, consider whether to make a report to Action Fraud quoting ‘Operation Ardent’
  • If concerned by marketing information received or direct approaches from other firms advising you to use their services, consider taking advice from Trading Standards/Citizens Advice Bureau.
  • Many clients will require Universal Trustees Ltd to sign forms that release them as trustees. In such circumstances, clients’ legal representatives (solicitors and barristers) only can submit a written request for up-to-date contact details to be released to them. Such requests should be made through the data protection team at Suffolk Constabulary. Contact address is dataprotection@suffolk.pnn.police.uk

You can find a full Q&A on Universal here.

Please also see our article on what to look for when choosing a trustee.

If you have any queries, please contact standards@step.org

Sarah Manuel is Professional Standards Manager at STEP

What’s been happening at STEP in England and Wales?

Rita Bhargava TEPIt’s been a busy few months at STEP.

Our public-facing website advisingfamilies.org marked its first birthday on 22 May. Launched as part of a wider campaign to raise public awareness of STEP and TEPs, the site has clocked up over 130,000 visits, and over 700 followers on social media. Members and their firms have done much to contribute to the 74 articles posted, and we are always looking for more.

In recent months we launched a new global member recruitment campaign, Grow with STEP. It focuses on the benefits of STEP membership for your career and your business. The campaign follows the introduction in February of three globally consistent routes to membership: exam, essay and expertise. If you help spread the word and grow STEP’s network by referring a colleague, you will be entered into a draw to win an iPad.

GDPR had been on many people’s minds long before its 25 May introduction, and you’ll have received an email from STEP about your own data. STEP is working hard to ensure its systems and processes are robust and fully compliant.

GDPR has thrown up some interesting and complex question for practitioners, in particular regarding firms’ responsibilities to notify beneficiaries of trusts and wills about the information held on file. The Data Protection Act 2018, which recently passed through parliament, is also in the spotlight, as unlike its predecessors, it removes the legal advice exemption. STEP is looking to assemble a working group that can examine this and other issues in this area. If you are interested in being involved, please let us know at standards@step.org.

Many members have voiced their concern over HMRC’s online Trust Registration Service (TRS), which was introduced in late 2017 to implement the requirements of the EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. All trusts and complex estates which generate a UK tax consequence are required to register, and then update information on an annual basis. Following initial teething problems, HMRC has confirmed it will take a ‘pragmatic and risk based approach to charging penalties’ for trust registrations made after the 5 March 2018 deadline, particularly where trustees or their agents have made reasonable efforts to meet their obligations under the regulations.

The European Council formally adopted the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive in May, bringing in further changes to trust registration. 5MLD will extend the TRS to all UK express trusts and non-EU trusts that own UK real estate or have a business relationship with a UK Obliged Entity. The new Directive will require HMRC to share the trust data with Obliged Entities and anyone with a ‘legitimate interest’ – a term yet to be defined in full. You can read more about the latest developments with the TRS in an earlier STEP Blog post. STEP is liaising with HM Treasury on this, so watch out for further updates in the UK News Digest.

Finally we have a packed autumn ahead. The UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference series starts in Manchester on 4 September, moving to London on 21 September, York on 2 October and finishing in Bristol on 16 October. And for those of you looking to network with members from across the world, our third Global Congress is in Vancouver on 13-14 September.

Back in London, the Private Client Awards are being held later than usual on 7 November at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. We were delighted to receive more than 250 entries from 23 countries, and the finalists were announced on 6 August. Good luck to all of you who have entered, and don’t forget to book your place at the event before it sells out.

Rita Bhargava TEP, Chair, STEP England & Wales Regional Committee