Lasting power of attorney: MSF proposes online system, more checks to prevent fraud

MSF proposed amendments in Parliament to enable LPAs to be made electronically as part of the Government's efforts to digitalise, on May 10, 2021. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

SINGAPORE - People who want to make a lasting power of attorney (LPA) can do so more easily as the process is slated to go digital with better safeguards against fraud.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development proposed amendments to the Mental Capacity Act in Parliament on Monday (May 10) to enable LPAs to be made electronically as part of the Government's efforts to digitalise and offer more convenience to Singaporeans.

The Bill will be debated in Parliament at the next sitting.

Those wishing to make an LPA can log in via Singpass to a new electronic system, the Office of the Public Guardian Online (Opgo). The donor can draft the LPA Form 1 online, filling out details of the donee and powers to be granted. Under the new system, donors and donees do not have to meet in person.

Donees will receive an SMS or e-mail notification, after which they can log in to Opgo via Singpass to accept the LPA without the need for a witness or red seals.

Once the donee accepts, the donor will then visit the certificate issuer- a medical practitioner accredited by the public guardian, a practising lawyer or registered psychiatrist - to digitally sign the LPA before the issuer certifies and submits it on the donor's behalf through Opgo.

The processing time for an LPA is expected to be cut down from an average of three weeks to eight working days with the new system, excluding a three-week mandatory waiting period. Donors and donees will be notified by SMS or e-mail about the registration status of the LPA.

Donors and donees should notify the public guardian of any errors within 90 days of the date they receive a notice.

In a statement on Monday, MSF said individuals can expect a more convenient method of making LPAs without compromising security. Through the new system, donors and donees can also easily retrieve the latest version of the LPA via Opgo and need not be concerned about misplacing the hard copy of the registered LPA, the ministry said.

Making and submitting an LPA in hard copy may still be permitted under exceptional circumstances where the donor or donee is unable to make or digitally sign the LPA using Opgo.

The move to electronically file LPAs comes in the wake of global movement restrictions amid the Covid-19 pandemic and a steady rise in the number of LPAs registered here, jumping from 2,681 in 2014 to 21,552 last year.

Addressing concerns that the amendments will affect Singaporeans who are not digitally savvy, MSF said it will reach out to users in need through the Citizen Connect Centres - available at community centres islandwide - and the Integrated Public Service Centre at Our Tampines Hub.

Staff at these community touch points will be trained to help those who have difficulty using Opgo make their LPAs electronically.

Other measures to make the platform more accessible include videos to guide users on making an LPA, prompts in the four official languages and a text-to-speech function for visually-challenged users. MSF said social service agencies will also be looped into the process.

Senior consultant at Tan Tock Seng Hospital Habeebul Rahman Sahul Hameed, who is a certificate issuer, said the new system would reduce paperwork and the need to hold on to hard copies of the LPA.

"There is only one face-to-face meeting when the donor meets the certificate issuer to sign his LPA. The certificate issuer will continue to ensure that the donor has the mental capacity to make the LPA and understands the effect of an LPA," he said.

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