SINGAPORE: A proposed amendment that would digitalise the making of a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) could cut the waiting time needed to register an LPA from an average of three weeks to an average of eight working days, excluding a three-week mandatory waiting period.
An LPA allows an appointed person to make medical and financial decisions on another person's behalf should they lose mental capacity.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is proposing to amend the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) to allow LPAs to be made and registered electronically.
This would be done through a new system called the Office of the Public Guardian Online electronic system.
Singaporeans would no longer need to print and submit hardcopy documents, or physically affix their wet-ink signatures and seals - steps currently required for hardcopy LPA deeds.
A public consultation on the proposed changes will run from Wednesday until Nov 18.
Deputies would also be able to file their deputy reports online through the same system, which would provide information for newly-appointed deputies to better understand their roles and responsibilities.
A deputy is an individual or a licensed trust company appointed by the court to make certain decisions on behalf of a person who lacks mental capacity when the person has not made an LPA and has no donee to decide on his behalf in respect of those decisions.
"UNCERTAINTIES IN LIFE"
These changes are in line with the digital transformation of the public service, and MSF had been working on this before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
The pandemic has shown why it is important that these online transactions should be made available, he said.
"COVID-19 has certainly made us more reflective about the uncertainties in life," said Mr Masagoes.
"And such uncertainties are why it is important for all of us to consider putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), to ensure that there will be a trusted person to make decisions for us if and when we lose our mental capacity one day."
EASIER, FASTER APPLICATION PROCESS
If passed, the proposed amendments would further reduce the time needed for the LPA process.
In August, changes were made to halve the mandatory waiting period before an LPA can be registered from six weeks to three.
The latest changes, if passed, means an LPA could be registered in just eight working days, excluding the mandatory waiting period. Under the current system, MSF said it could take more than three weeks (excluding the mandatory waiting period) for an LPA to be registered.
ELECTRONIC COPY OF LPA
Under the proposed changes announced on Wednesday, MSF said an electronic copy of an LPA would be treated as the LPA.
The proposed changes would also allow updates to an LPA to be made to this electronic copy, and for it to “prevail in the event of any inconsistency with a hardcopy version”, MSF said.
This electronic copy would be kept by the Office of the Public Guardian and would be made the most up-to-date version.
“This will give third parties greater confidence in transacting with donees (an appointed person to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf should you lose mental capacity) as they will directly receive the most up-to-date electronic copy of the LPA,” said MSF.
The Office of the Public Guardian will partner Government and community agencies to help those who may be less digitally savvy or need tech support, MSF said.
MSF said it expects around 30,000 LPAs to be registered yearly, based on trends before COVID-19. The ministry added that the new system will be designed to meet the increasing LPA volume.
The application fee of S$75 for a standard LPA made by Singapore citizens is currently waived until March 2021. Known as LPA Form 1, this allows donors to grant donees general powers with basic restrictions.
A more customised version (LPA Form 2), which has to be drafted by a lawyer, costs S$200 for Singaporeans.