Slow take-up for Lasting Power of Attorney scheme

Cost, not understanding the scheme, inability to read English the likely reasons

Since the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) scheme started in 2010, only 1 per cent of the adult resident population in Singapore, or about 35,000 people, have applied for an LPA.

Retiree Ong Teck Wan, who was keen on getting an LPA done, said in a letter to The Straits Times Forum that he was put off from doing so after his family doctor told him it would cost $120.

"I feel it's important to do it, but I also feel it's very pricey," Mr Ong, 65, said.

The Sunday Times understands that, on average, certificate issuers charge between $120 and $150 for their services. However, there are hundreds of options available and prices tend to vary widely.The Office of the Public Guardian said it does not have rules on how much certificate issuers should charge.

A spokesman for the office said: "The identified certificate issuers can charge a professional fee for this service, as the role involves various responsibilities and fees may differ between certificate issuers, depending on complexity of the case for assessment."

  • Step-by-step guide

  • Here is a step-by-step guide on how to apply for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

    1. Choose who you want to appoint as your donee - the person who will look after your health and financial affairs if you lose mental capacity. You can have up to two donees if you are applying with LPA Form 1. Decide what powers you want to give your donee, and download the appropriate LPA form. Form 1 is the standard version; Form 2 is for those with non-standard requirements. You will need a lawyer's help with Form 2.

    2. You can download the various forms on the website of the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). You will need several documents. These include:

    •Completed LPA form

    •• A copy of the front and back of the donor's NRIC, as well as those of the donees and replacement donees. The OPG website provides a printable version of this checklist, a sample of a completed form, and other guides.

    3.  Get your form signed by an LPA certificate issuer, who will certify that you know the implications of making an LPA. Accredited doctors, practising lawyers and psychiatrists are all qualified. You can find a list of certificate issuers on the OPG website. If you choose Form 2, you will need to see a lawyer to draft the annex to Part 3 of your LPA.

    4.  Submit your completed form to the OPG. The application fee for Form 1 will be waived until end-August 2018. Those applying with Form 2 have to pay $200. The application fee is different from what you pay a certifier.

    5.  After the OPG verifies that the application can be accepted, there will be a six-week waiting period. If no valid objections are raised, the LPA will be registered.

Psychiatrists, practising lawyers and accredited doctors can all serve as LPA certificate issuers.

There are two versions of the LPA.

LPA Form 1 can be used for standard cases where the appointed person has almost full power over the donor's personal welfare and property affairs. LPA Form 2 needs to be drafted by a lawyer and allows applicants to create specific powers to be granted to the appointed person.

Mr Goh Kok Yeow, a partner at law firm De Souza Lim & Goh, said if a client requests that two appointed persons act jointly on his behalf, he must make sure the client understands the implications. "If one of them dies or becomes a bankrupt, for instance, the document becomes invalid," he said.

Mr Goh typically charges clients a few hundred dollars, depending on factors such as whether the person requires his help to fill in the form, and how long the consultation takes."I can spend two hours with a client explaining these things," he said.

At LifePoint, a centre set up by voluntary welfare organisation Sheng Hong Welfare Services, monthly talks are organised to help seniors better understand the scheme.

The centre works with lawyers to offer subsidised services, meaning the elderly can get their LPA forms signed and certified for $60.

Sheng Hong manager Liau Yi Fang said: "A lot of elderly folk do not know how to read English - the language used for such official documents - so they come to us and we explain it to them."

•Additional reporting by Carolyn Khew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 04, 2016, with the headline 'Slow take-up for Lasting Power of Attorney scheme'. Print Edition | Subscribe