Monday 14 July 2014

Simpler forms, waiver of registration fees for Lasting Power of Attorney

Application forms for Lasting Power of Attorney simplified, registration fees waived
By Imelda Saad, Channel NewsAsia, 12 Jul 2014

The government is trying to encourage more Singaporeans to make an application for a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

That's when one legally appoints another person to make decisions and act on his behalf, in the event he's mentally incapacitated.

This could be if dementia strikes, if a person has a stroke or if he suffers head trauma, as a result of an accident.

* Application Fees for Lasting Power of Attorney Waived until 31 August 2020

Over 6,000 applications have been made since the LPA was introduced four years ago.

It's hoped that more Singaporeans will come on board early.

Hundreds of cases are brought to court every year because of ambiguity over who takes charge of the welfare or assets, of a person who has lost his mental capacity.

Without an LPA, appointed Deputies - those who are acting on behalf of a family member who has lost his or her mental capacity to make decisions - often have to go through a long-drawn court process to settle their family members' affairs.

On average, there are about 200 court orders to appoint Deputies every year.

To encourage more people to make an LPA application, forms have been simplified, taking away legal and technical jargon.

The S$50 registration for applications have also been waived for the basic LPA Form 1 form for the next two years.

Registration fees will still apply if an applicant needs to customise his LPA.

Applicants will still need to pay professional fees charged by LPA certificate issuers, such as accredited General Practitioners and lawyers.

Fees for this cost at least $50.

To make it more convenient, SingPost will offer free postal service for the submission of forms over the next two years.

The changes come after feedback about the LPA, since it was launched four years ago.

The new initiatives kick off from September this year.

The LPA was introduced as part of the Mental Capacity Act, taking into account Singapore's ageing population.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said: "People with children and lots of family responsibility should seriously think about this because while we are working very hard today to provide for our families, we never really know when something untoward may happen towards us and it's also not just for us but for the rest of the family members and our children."

And it's not just about appointing someone trusted to settle your financial affairs. The person appointed, known as the LPA Donee, can also make decisions on a person's well-being.

The LPA donees can be changed at any time.

Most LPA applicants are between the ages of 56 and 70. It's all about encouraging people to sign up early, even before they need it. Young Singaporeans are also encouraged to sign up as one will never know when an accident may strike.

Richard Magnus, chairman of the Public Guardian Board, said: "When an accident happens and you lose your mental capacity then who decides? Who provides the consent for your medical care and your medical treatment? We have seen quite a number of cases like that."

The LPA also comes in useful to settle any disputes among family members.

Mr Chan explained: "Some people have different next-of-kin and they have to choose one next-of-kin to decide. For example, some of the stories we have heard, they have many brothers or sisters and they need to find an agreement to come to a consensus on what needs to be done.

"And sometimes in a critical moment, whether it's for medical reasons or otherwise, you need someone to take charge and say that this is the person who will act on my best interest. This is the reason why even though we all have our next-of-kin, we should try to find that one person to facilitate that whole process because sometimes these are critical decisions."

The LPA form can be downloaded from this website.

More Singaporeans making end-of-life preparations
Rise attributed to higher awareness of options, increasing ease of application
By Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 1 Sep 2014

WHETHER it be instructing medics to turn off life support or relatives to make decisions if mental ability deteriorates, more Singaporeans are taking active steps to get their end-of-life papers in order.

More than 2,500 people applied for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) from April last year to March this year.

Only 655 people did so in the same timeframe three years ago.

An LPA is a legal document that allows one's next of kin to make key decisions on their behalf should they lose the mental ability to do so.

Figures obtained from the Ministry of Health (MOH) also show that 1,800 people signed an Advance Medical Directive (AMD) - a form of "living will" - last year, up from 500 a decade ago.

An AMD aims to minimise suffering by indicating that people do not want their lives artificially prolonged should they become unconscious while terminally ill.

Figures from MOH show that as of the end of last year, over 18,700 people had made an AMD.

About 6,500 have made an LPA to date, according to the Office of the Public Guardian which maintains the LPA registry.

Those who work with the elderly or terminally ill attributed the rise to greater awareness of these documents, and increasing ease and affordability of applying for them.

More people are aware that they have these end-of-life options as a growing number of doctors are trained to administer them and are also encouraging their patients to plan early.

Professor Kua Ee Heok, senior consultant at National University Hospital, said he makes it a point to discuss the LPA with patients who are 65 and older.

Dr R. Akhileswaran, chief executive of HCA Hospice Care, said all its doctors, nurses and medical social workers are trained in advance care planning, with some doctors authorised to issue LPA certificates.

"This makes it easier for patients to discuss the AMD, LPA or other ways of advance care planning whenever they wish to and take the next steps," he said.

It is also cheaper and easier to apply for an LPA now.

From today, the $50 registration fee for the basic form for the LPA will be waived for two years.

Used by more than 97 per cent of applicants, this has also been simplified and cut from 15 pages to eight.

Health-care workers say it is a good sign that more are willing to make end-of-life preparations now because people are losing their mental faculties earlier.

In 2011, 44 per cent of those who lost their mental capacity and needed the court to step in to appoint deputies to make decisions on their behalf - as they did not make an LPA - were 71 years old and above.

This year, the percentage for those above 70 shrank to 36 per cent.

Meanwhile, those between 35 and 70 years old who suffered mental deterioration increased to 59 per cent, up from 49 per cent in 2011.

"It could be due to diseases such as stroke or vascular dementia of which studies have shown are increasingly striking younger people," said Prof Kua.

Retiree Hey Bong Koi, 66, saw the urgency of making an LPA after a stressful experience dealing with his parents' assets.

When his dad died in 2010, his mum was meant to be the executor of his will. She was, however, certified as unable to do so because she had dementia.

The lawyer suggested that Mr Hey replace his mum as executor, but he needed to be appointed as her deputy by the court first.

It took him two years to get that done, due to legal procedures and having to get the consent of relatives based overseas. During this time, many decisions - such as on bank accounts and insurance - came to a standstill.

He and his wife have since applied for an LPA and AMD.

"I am relieved that we have done it," he said.

"Though it requires you to think carefully about who to appoint, it will save one a lot of hassle and anxiety down the road."

* Fee waiver for LPA applications extended to end-August 2018
By Lin Yangchen, The Straits Times, 16 Aug 2016

For two more years, Singaporeans will enjoy lower costs in entrusting their health and finances to someone else if they lose their mental capacity.

The fee waiver for Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) applications, introduced in 2014, was yesterday extended until Aug 31, 2018.

Singaporeans will be able to file LPA Form 1 applications for free until this date, although they will still have to pay fees charged by professionals engaged to witness and certify the application, such as medical practitioners and lawyers.

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.

Social and Family Development Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said yesterday on the MSF Conversations blog: "We spend much of our lives planning for our future - from simple things like what to have for lunch, to more complex things like our career path or family planning.

"But what do we do when the unexpected happens? What if we are suddenly unable to make our own decisions or care for ourselves? It is a tough question that we all need to think about."

LPA applicants have two forms to choose from. Form 1 grants general powers and meets the needs of the vast majority of Singaporeans, said the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), while Form 2 accommodates special requirements and customised powers.

Fees continue to apply for Form 2 and for permanent residents and foreigners.

Besides the fee waiver, the LPA application process has been simplified. The Office of the Public Guardian, which administers the applications, has simplified the language and reduced the number of pages in the forms.

MSF said the fee waiver and simpler procedure have boosted the total number of LPA Form 1 and Form 2 applications by Singaporeans from 4,119 in 2014 to 8,478 in 2015.

Mr Tan said: "There's no harm in planning ahead for a rainy day. I encourage everyone to make a Lasting Power of Attorney early to give ourselves and our loved ones peace of mind in the event that the worst does happen."

** Application fees for Lasting Power of Attorney waived for 2 more years till end-August 2020
By Theresa Tan, Senior Social Affairs Correspondent, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2018

Singaporeans who want to get someone to make decisions on their behalf should they become mentally incapacitated can do so for free for two more years.

The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) said yesterday it will extend the waiver of the application fee of $75 for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) Form 1 until Aug 31, 2020. This fee was first waived in 2014 and later extended to Aug 31 this year to encourage more people to make such an arrangement.

Individuals can appoint others through an LPA to make decisions for them, such as those involving their welfare and finances, if they lose their mental capacity.

There are two LPA forms.

Form 1 grants general powers to those acting on the mentally incapacitated person's behalf. Some 98 per cent of Singaporeans who made an LPA used Form 1.

Form 2 is for applicants who want to grant specific or customised powers to those who will make decisions for them and has to be drafted by a lawyer. The application fee for Form 2 is $200 for Singaporeans.

As of end March this year, more than 43,000 people have submitted their LPA applications to the OPG.

The only fees applicants have to pay is to accredited professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, to certify they have the mental capacity to appoint someone to act on their behalf and are not forced to do so.

The 10 most popular accredited medical practitioners charge between $25 and $80, said a spokesman for the OPG.

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 an 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 reasons 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.

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