SINGAPORE - For the past three years, chartered accountant Francis Chan, 56, has been volunteering to make decisions on behalf of the needy who are mentally incapacitated and have no next of kin.
He has been offering his services pro bono under the Panel Deputy Scheme.
One of his cases involved an unmarried woman in her 60s, who suffers from dementia. She was sent to a nursing home after her siblings died and there was no one to care for her.
The Office of the Public Guardian, who protects the interests of the mentally incapacitated, was alerted to her case and the courts appointed Mr Chan and another person to act as her panel deputies.
The woman inherited a three-room flat, which the deputies sold for between $300,000 to $400,000, and she has some savings, which Mr Chan declined to reveal the amount.
The two proxy decision-makers used the money to pay for a more comfortable - instead of the most basic - level of nursing home care for her and to settle her debts.
Mr Chan said he signed up to be a professional deputy and donee as it is "a natural progression" from what he is already doing.
Someone who is mentally sound can pay and hire a person, called a professional donee, to make decisions on his behalf should he lose his mental capacity in the future, for example, through dementia.
The appointment is formalised through a legal document called the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
If one has not done a LPA before losing his mental faculties, the courts can appoint a professional paid to do the job, called a professional deputy, to make decisions on his behalf.
The Professional Deputies and Donees Scheme was launched on Friday (Sept 21).
Mr Chan is still working out his fee structure and said it all depends on each client's needs. In the meantime, he will continue volunteering as a panel deputy.
Lawyer Haryadi Hadi, 35, decided to be a professional deputy as he has wealthy clients who are single, childless or have strained ties with their loved ones and they cannot find anyone to be their proxy decision-makers should they become mentally incapacitated.
He has not decided on his fees yet, but said it could be a percentage of their estate or an hourly rate of a few hundred dollars.