Remember the saga of Yang Yin, a foreign tour guide who tried to cheat a wealthy Singaporean widow of her fortune in 2014? His ill intentions were discovered by her niece and his status as a donee for the widow's Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) was revoked. In 2017, he was jailed for 9 years.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) in October, over 43,000 people have already applied for LPAs. The Office of the Public Guardian, who oversees the application of LPAs, see an average of 1,500 applications each month. Besides the Yang Yin case, an ageing population as well as the rising number of singles in Singapore have also contributed to the rising number of applications. The OPG has also extended the waiver of the one-time application fee of S$75 until 2020.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?
The Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document which allows a person (donor) who is 21 years of age or older, to voluntarily appoint one or more persons (donees) to act and make decisions on his or her behalf. This covers areas like personal welfare, property and financial affairs should the donor lack the mental capacity to do so in future.
Why should you make an LPA application?
An LPA allows you to protect your interests should you lose your mental capacity. An LPA is a legally binding document which grants a trusted donor of your choice to make decisions on your behalf. It helps to alleviate potential conflicts between loved ones or next-of-kin should such a scenario happen. An LPA can therefore safeguard your interests and give you some peace of mind.
Here are some examples of decisions your donee(s) is authorised to make on your behalf:
- Opening, closing and managing your bank account(s)
- Handling your tax matters
- Paying your rent, mortgage and other household expenses
- Arranging your personal or medical care such as hiring a domestic helper
Who can be your donee(s)?
Your donee must be at least 21 years old and must not be a bankrupt. A donee(s) can also be a licensed trust company as defined in the Trust Companies Act.
You can appoint one or more donee(s). However, appointing too many donees can result in situations where the donees may find it hard to see eye-to-eye on key decisions. It is vital to choose donees who can work together to resolve differences amicably, in order to avoid complications.
If you appoint more than one donee to make decisions on the same matters such as your personal welfare, your donees can act in the following ways:
Jointly: Your donees must act together and NOT separately.
Jointly and severally: Your donees can make decisions together or separately.
Important factors to consider
Selecting the right donee(s) can be challenging for some. Here are some important points to be aware of:
The property and affairs donee’s LPA appointment will be cancelled should the following happen:
- Death of donee
- Bankruptcy of donee
- If the donee is a licensed trust company and has its license revoked or lapsed.
- Divorce between donor and donee unless LPA states otherwise
- Donee rejects the appointment
- Donee lacks mental capacity to make the appointed decisions
There are two different prescribed LPA forms:
LPA Form 1 – choose this form if you wish to grant your donee(s) wide-ranging powers to make decisions on your behalf. You can fill up this form yourself but if you do not understand the implications of granting any particular powers to your donee(s), consult a lawyer. The forms can be downloaded here.
LPA Form 2 – choose this form if you have special requirements to be included in your LPA, e.g. if you wish to give specific powers to your donee(s). You will need to hire a lawyer to make this LPA.
After the form is completed, you need to see a Certificate Issuer to get your form signed. He will be your witness to certify that you fully understand the implications of making an LPA. A professional fee is payable to the certificate issuer. Based on the LPA applications the OPG received since 2010, here’s a list of the 10 most visited Certificate Issuers. Fees range from $25 - $80 depending on the complexity of each case, with most Certificate Issuers charging $50.
Who can be an LPA Certificate Issuer?
- A medical practitioner accredited by the Public Guardian
- A practising lawyer
- A registered psychiatrist
Next, you have to apply to register your LPA Form with the OPG with your SingPass. If you have specified that your donees are to act jointly, then all of them need to make the application.
Once you’ve received your LPA document, keep it in a safe place but ensure that your donee(s) can have access to it if they have to make decisions for you. On top of this, you need to inform the following people and institutions that you have made an LPA:
- Your doctor and other healthcare providers
- Your bank(s)
- Central Provident Fund Board and
- Other institutions in which you have accounts such as the Central Depository, Insurance companies and stockbrokers.
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A recipient of the Magnum Foundation Emergency Grant in 2014, my photos from the Middle East and Asia have also been published in Time Magazine and Le Monde etc. My written work ranges from travel, politics (Mid-East) to the environment and finance-related matters.