The independent assessment of an applicant (a donor) is an important safeguard of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) application process ("Wide disparity in fees for basic LPA form" by Madam Ho Yin Kham, Nov 18; and "Slow take-up for Lasting Power of Attorney scheme", Dec 4).
It ensures that the applicant has the mental capacity to make an LPA, understands its content and is not under undue pressure to apply.
The assessment must be conducted by a certificate issuer, who can be a practising lawyer, a psychiatrist or an Office of the Public Guardian (OPG)-accredited medical practitioner. The responsibility of the certificate issuer, however, extends beyond merely making the assessment.
If an LPA is contested at any time in the future, the certificate issuer may have to testify before the courts on the applicant's state of mental health at the point of making the LPA.
The certificate issuer may need to explain the various ways a trusted person (a donee) can be appointed to act on behalf of the applicant. He may also be asked to advise on the implications of situations, such as whether the LPA would still be valid if two persons are appointed to act jointly, but one appointed person's power is revoked because of bankruptcy or death.
Hence, depending on the complexities of the applicant's needs, professional fees charged by certificate issuers may vary.
There is, however, a social service agency called Lifepoint that offers help to senior citizens. It organises LPA sessions and works with lawyers to help the elderly get their forms certified at a lower cost. Lifepoint can be contacted on 6538-9877.
To make the LPA easier for the public, the OPG simplified the LPA Form 1 in 2014, and extended the Form 1 administrative fee waiver for another two years, until Aug 31, 2018 for all Singapore citizens.
This has resulted in a threefold increase in the number of LPA sign-ups - from 10,407 in 2014 to 35,406 as of Oct 31 this year.
For further clarifications, the public can call our hotline, available in all four languages, on 1800-226-6222 or visit www.publicguardian.gov.sg
Office of the Public Guardian
Ministry of Social and Family Development