When it comes to planning ahead for the future, you may be thinking of saving up, making investments, and buying insurance. Fortunately, more people are also starting to appreciate the importance of estate planning and drawing up a will.
While having a will allows you to express your wishes of how your estate should be administered upon your demise, it does not cover the scenario in which you are mentally incapacitated, such as in a comatose or vegetative state after an accident or illness. This is when a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) will come in useful by empowering someone you trust to manage your welfare and finances.
In this article, we will explain 4 scenarios where making an LPA can prove to be helpful, should an unfortunate event of a mental incapacity befall on you.
#1 Reduces Time Required For Court Proceedings
In an event where you lose your mental capacity suddenly in an absence of an LPA, your family members or loved ones will not be automatically granted the right to make decisions or take care of your affairs on your behalf. Instead, they will have to apply to the Family Justice Courts (FJC) for an order to administer your affairs on your behalf, which is also known as a deputyship.
According to the FJC, a typical deputyship application can be processed within 3 to 4 months. However, in some cases the process may take longer due to reasons such as incomplete submission of documents, a complicated case, or if someone comes forward to challenge the application.
In contrast to applying for a deputyship with the FJC, the process to apply for an LPA is shorter. The LPA Form 1, a standard LPA application with basic restrictions that is used by 98% of Singaporeans who have applied for an LPA, can be completed in 30 minutes.
This should be done together with a visit to an accredited medical practitioner, a lawyer or psychiatrist to be issued with an LPA certification. This is to ensure that you are not applying for an LPA under pressure or duress.
Thereafter, you can submit the certified application to the Office of Public Guardian (OPG), which will process your LPA application, subject to a mandatory waiting period of 3 weeks upon receiving your application.
#2 Save Money From Court Proceedings
As mentioned above, in an event where you are to suffer from mental incapacity without an LPA, your family members will have to apply to the FJC for deputyship.
In such circumstances, some families may choose to handle the application by themselves, for which they will still need to appoint a Commissioner for Oath, usually a practicing lawyer, to affirm the documents, before they can submit them to the FJC. Otherwise, they may either opt to appoint a lawyer to assist them in preparing the necessary documents for the application.
Either way, the cost of applying for deputyship through the FJC can range from few hundred dollars to a few thousands of dollars. By applying for an LPA using LPA Form 1, you need to pay a small fraction of what is required for your family members to apply for deputyship via the FJC.
In addition, you can pay a lower fee if you opt to visit an accredited medical practitioner, instead of a lawyer or a psychiatrist, to issue you an LPA certificate for your LPA Form 1 application before submitting it to the OPG. According to the OPG, the top 10 most visited accredited medical practitioners typically charge a fee between $25 and $80, with most charging $50 for the service.
Also, the OPG is waiving the application fee of $75 for LPA Form 1 until 31st August 2020, so there is no better time than now to apply for an LPA.
#3 Helps Ensure Your Interests Are Safeguarded
In an event where you do not apply for an LPA, someone else who might not be your choice may apply to the FJC to be given the authority to handle your affairs. There also may be a possibility that any ongoing application of the deputyship will be challenged.
When this occur, the deputies appointed by the FJC to make decisions on your behalf may not fully aware of your preferences, needs and beliefs, or that a trusted family member of yours may not be granted deputyship eventually. Either way, your interest may not be taken care should you suffer from mental incapacity.
In contrast, by making an LPA in advance, you will be able to nominate a trusted family member of your choice to take care of your affairs, if you should lose your mental capacity. This means someone whom you can trust can step forward and make decisions on your behalf, once a doctor certifies that you have lost your mental capacity.
In this way, you can be assured that the person you have appointed will act on your interest, as he would have a clear understanding of your preferences, needs and beliefs.
#4 Allows You To Access Uninterrupted Care Faster
As mentioned earlier, should there be an absence of an LPA upon your mental incapacity, your family members will have to apply to the FJC for deputyship.
During this period of application, your family members will not be able to access your bank accounts or insurance payouts, which is essential to ensure prompt payment for uninterrupted medical care and maintenance of your state of welfare.
However, if there is an LPA in place, your appointed family member can immediately start managing your personal welfare, property and affairs, instead of having to wait for the court process of appointing a deputy before any action can be taken.
There Is No Better Time To Make An LPA Than Now
An LPA forms a part of a holistic estate planning process, together with an Advance Medical Directive and your will.
With an LPA, you can be assured that your family members will be freed from a strenuous court process that may adversely impact finances or causing strain to familial relationships.
It provides clarity in a difficult situation, as your interest are being taken care of according to your wishes, should you suffer from a diminishing mental capacity. Your family members will also be able to continue with little disruption, with your medical expenses being taken care of.
As mentioned earlier, the OPG is now waiving the application fee until 31st August 2020 So, that’s one more good reason why you shouldn’t delay in setting up an LPA today!