SINGAPORE - Singaporeans who wish to appoint someone else to make decisions on their health and finances if they lose their mental capacity can benefit from a $75 fee waiver for two more years.
The fee waiver for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) applications was on Thursday (June 28) extended until Aug 31, 2020.
It was first introduced in 2014 and subsequently extended until Aug 31, 2018, allowing Singaporeans to file their LPA Form 1 applications for free.
The LPA is a legal document that allows a person aged at least 21 to appoint one or more people to take actions on his behalf should he lose the ability to make his own decisions, such as if he develops dementia.
As of March 31, more than 43,000 people have applied for LPAs, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said in a statement on Thursday.
LPA applicants have two forms to choose from. Form 1 grants general powers and meets the needs of the vast majority of Singaporeans, while Form 2 accommodates special requirements and customised powers.
Fees, ranging between $200 and $300, continue to apply for Form 2 as well as for permanent residents and foreigners.
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which falls under the MSF, said that the extension for Singaporeans is to encourage more to plan ahead by having an LPA to safeguard their interests, as well as for peace of mind.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said: "An ageing population and rising prevalence of dementia mean that there may be more people losing mental capacity.
"We see more Singaporeans recognising the importance of planning ahead with an LPA, as we work to make the application process more accessible and affordable."
Despite the fee waiver, Singaporeans will still have to pay fees charged by professionals engaged to witness and certify the application, such as medical practitioners, lawyers and psychiatrists.
Fees range between $25 and $80, with most of them charging $50 to issue certificates. The charges will depend on the complexity of each case.
The fee waiver may encourage some people, like those from lower income groups, to get their LPA done, said those interviewed.
Dr Tan Sai Tiang, assistant director of Hua Mei Clinic under the Tsao Foundation, said the waiver might give a nudge to those who are already keen to sign a LPA. “For those who have not made up their minds to do so, I don’t think the fee waiver will have an effect,” she added.
Fees aside, there are many factors behind why many people have not signed an LPA.
Dr Tan said some people do not have anyone they can trust. Others do not want to impose this responsibility, or burden, on others.
Dr Tan Jit Seng, director of Lotus Eldercare, a social enterprise providing eldercare health services, said: “The loss of mental capacity and death is still a taboo in our Asian society and it’s not in our culture to talk about it.”
Some are also ignorant about the importance of making an LPA, said lawyer Kwok-Chern Yew Tee. She said if a person becomes mentally incapacitated without making an LPA, his family cannot access, for example, the money in his bank account to look after him.
They have to apply to the Courts to act as his deputy, which is to make decisions on the mentally incapacitated person’s behalf.
This process is a lot more costly and troublesome. Previously, the OPG spokesman has said the cost of applying to Court to be a deputy ranges from $3,000 to $10,000, as it includes lawyers’ and Court fees.
The extended fee waiver comes after MSF made the LPA application process more accessible by simplifying the language used and reducing the number of pages in the forms in 2014.
This led to a 55 per cent jump in the number of LPA applications from Sept 1, 2016, to Aug 31 last year, the ministry said, adding that OPG now receives a monthly average of 1,500 applications.
The public can visit www.publicguardian.gov.sg for more information on the LPA and the application process.