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How does POPI affect the administration of a deceased estate?

The POPI Act is legislation that has been put into place to protect the personal information processed by public and private bodies. To date, 66% of countries worldwide now have legislation to this effect, with a further 10% having draft legislation according to UNCTAD. Not only is South Africa concerned with data safety, but the use and sharing of personal information to third parties without the consent of the consumer or prior notice is an international concern. This one act affects everyone in the country. Public or private bodies (like law firms) don’t have a choice to comply or risk being charged a hefty fine or jail time and losing their reputation.


The POPI Act recognises that “the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information.” At the same time, it bears in mind that we live in an information society, and in this society “the need for economic and social progress requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information.” This means that the processing of personal information by public and private bodies will be regulated “in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitation that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests.”

The Act does not specifically mention that it regulates the administration of a deceased estate. That, however, is the beauty of law as there are several legislations and regulations that all work together to ensure a deceased estate is adequately, legally, and efficiently administered.  These now include the POPI Act protecting the privacy of the individuals involved.

Administering a deceased estate under POPI

When all is said and done, the manner in which a deceased estate is administered will not change all that much. The lawyers and courts involved still need access to the involved individuals’ personal information to complete the administration and will have to keep that information on record. With POPI, they will need to pay more attention to how they store it, though, as the safety of the information is what is truly important. This is not a new concept. Law firms, courts, banks, and other bodies have needed to store and share sensitive information long before POPI came into effect. The administration of the deceased estate and the processing of the necessary data is already highly regulated, which might make one think that the POPI Act is redundant in these situations – not so.

In a world where it is easier than ever to click a button and transfer data, added security measures are necessary. It provides the data subject with clear recourse should his/her data be collected, stored, and used irresponsibly. It also refocuses public and private bodies’ attention on how they process their clients’ data.

Consumers’ attention has also been drawn to how their information is processed, and they have a responsibility too. They should only provide their personal information to reputable public and private bodies. They should think twice before giving their consent for a public or private body to share their information. They should only consent to the sharing of information when it is needed to complete an official process, like administering a deceased estate. 

AED Attorneys understands that every situation is unique, and although they strive to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate at the time of publishing, it cannot be guaranteed to be without errors or omissions. As a result, AED Attorneys, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions in this article, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.