Applying for Lasting Power of Attorney to be faster, easier

Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee announced changes to the application process for a Lasting Power of Attorney on July 20, 2019. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Singaporeans who want to get someone to make decisions on their behalf if they become mentally incapacitated will soon face a much shorter - and easier - application process.

The legal document called the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which allows this appointment, can be accessed electronically under the changes, which kick in on Aug 1. The waiting period will also be slashed from six weeks to three weeks.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee announced the moves during the Alzheimer's Disease Association charity luncheon yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel.

He urged people to make an LPA: "It allows you to appoint a family member to legally manage your assets and personal welfare in the event that you lose mental capacity."

About 67,000 people have already appointed someone to make decisions on their behalf if they become mentally incapacitated - through dementia, for example.

There is a mandatory waiting period of six weeks after the LPA application is accepted by the Office of the Public Guardian, which protects the interests of those who lack mental capacity.

If no objections are lodged during this period, the office will register the LPA.

The shortened waiting period will reduce the overall time needed to make an LPA, "while still ensuring sufficient time for valid objections to be raised", said the Ministry of Social and Family Development.

Fewer than 0.1 per cent of LPA applications were objected to or withdrawn during the mandatory waiting period from 2016 to last year.

The other reform will allow people who apply for the LPA from Aug 1 to access the legal document through an online portal.

Under the current process, the person appointed to make decisions on behalf of another person would have to produce the original hard copy document to relevant institutions such as banks or hospitals to make a transaction.

The new system will let applicants easily access and share their LPA with the relevant third parties, said the ministry.

The soft copy of the LPA can still be printed out if needed.

If a person loses his mental capacity without making an LPA, family members have to apply to the court for the right to make decisions on his behalf - a far more tedious and costly process, say experts.

More support is under way for caregivers whose loved ones lose their mental capacity without first making an LPA. This includes plans to simplify the application process for caregivers who want to apply to be a deputy.

Other recommendations - made by the Committee to Review and Enhance Reforms in the Family Justice System - include plans for counselling and mediation as well as training for these caregivers.

The public will be able to share their views on the recommendations in the coming months.

Alzheimer's Disease Association chief executive Jason Foo said the changes will help ease the burden of caregivers.

"Even though it is a difficult topic for families to talk about, planning the care process for when an elderly (person) loses mental capacity will help both the elderly and their loved ones live less stressful lives and make their time together more meaningful."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 21, 2019, with the headline Applying for Lasting Power of Attorney to be faster, easier. Subscribe