PARLIAMENT

Surge in people appointing guardians to act for them

8,360 signed up last year for Lasting Power of Attorney after process became cheaper, easier

There was a big jump last year in the number of people appointing guardians to make decisions on their behalf should they lose their mental faculties, after the process was made cheaper and easier.

In all, about 8,360 applications for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) were accepted, an increase of almost 160 per cent over the previous year. About seven out of 10 applications were made by people aged 56 and older.

The LPA is a legal document that lets a person appoint an individual to make key decisions for him when he becomes unable to do so. Anyone who is at least 21 years old can draw up or be named in the LPA.

A MATTER OF MINDSET

A lot of people talk about Singaporeans being under-insured... I don't know whether it's because we are 'pantang' (Malay for superstitious) or we try not to think about the inevitable...I think, intellectually, many of us grasp it. But I'm not sure whether we (can) emotionally... hoist it on board.

MINISTER FOR SOCIAL AND FAMILY DEVELOPMENT TAN CHUAN-JIN, noting that there is a need for a mindset change.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin disclosed the figures yesterday when replying to Mr Seah Kian Peng (Marine Parade GRC).

The changes that made the process easier and more convenient were introduced in late 2014.

The basic form used by most applicants was simplified, with less legal and technical jargon, and reduced from 15 pages to eight.

The $50 application fee for the form was also waived for citizens.

There is another form for those with larger, more complicated assets and who wish to grant specific authorisation to their appointees. Its $200 fee is not waived.

The fee waiver, which started in September 2014, will end on Aug 31 this year.A spokesman for the Ministry of Social and Family Development said it is studying the possibility of extending the waiver.

Since the LPA scheme began in 2010, more than 20,000 LPAs have been received - a figure Mr Seah said was "too small", given the much larger number of people eligible to sign up for an LPA.

Mr Tan agreed but added: "It's a balance between making (the application process) easy and safeguarding the interests of the individual."

He said he would look into making people more aware of it.

Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) and Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) suggested using the approaches taken by such schemes for the elderly as MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package.

With MediShield Life, one-to-one consultations were held at several community clubs to help people understand the new compulsory health insurance scheme.

The Pioneer Generation Package had "ambassadors" visiting seniors at home to explain the healthcare benefits they would receive from the Government.

But Mr Tan said a mindset change might be needed too. "A lot of people talk about Singaporeans being under-insured... I don't know whether it's because we are 'pantang' (Malay for superstitious) or we try not to think about the inevitable.

"But at some point, we will all degenerate as we grow older, physically and mentally, so this is something that we know is necessary."

He added: "I think, intellectually, many of us grasp it. But I'm not sure whether we (can) emotionally... hoist it on board."


Correction note: An earlier version of the story stated that more than 20,000 LPAs have been accepted, this is wrong, 20,000 LPAs have been received. Other figures in the story referred to the number of LPAs accepted, but the 20,000 figure referred to number of LPA applications made. We are sorry for the error.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Surge in people appointing guardians to act for them'. Print Edition | Subscribe