The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is proposing to amend the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) to enable the making of the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) electronically. This is in line with the Government’s wider efforts to promote and support the overall digital transformation of Singapore, starting with the public service.
2. With a simpler process, individuals can look forward to making and registering an LPA with greater ease and convenience. The online system will be secure and facilitate the use of the LPA by donees for the donors’ benefit. The amendments will also enhance safeguard to better protect donors.
3. The MCA establishes the LPA as a legal instrument which empowers individuals aged 21 years and above (called the “donor”) to appoint one or more persons whom they trust (called the “donee”) to make decisions on their behalf, in the event they lose mental capacity. Examples of such decisions include those on personal welfare and finances. The MCA also enables individuals to apply to court to be appointed as “deputies” to act on behalf of persons who have lost mental capacity but have not made an LPA.
Proposed Amendments to the MCA
4. There are four key amendments
a. Establish a new electronic transaction system, i.e., the Office of the Public Guardian Online electronic system (“OPGO”). OPGO enables LPAs to be made and registered electronically, and other transactions to be carried out online. With the new system, the time needed to register an LPA is expected to be reduced to an average of eight working days (excluding the three-week mandatory waiting period). The time taken for LPA registration under the current manual process varies, and averages three weeks (excluding the three-week mandatory waiting period).
Making and submitting an LPA in hardcopy may be permitted under exceptional circumstances where the donor and/or donee are/is unable to make or digitally sign the LPA using OPGO.
b. Enable an LPA to be made electronically, as a deed. Individuals will not need to affix wet-ink signatures and seals on an LPA that is made electronically. The donor will sign the LPA in the presence of the LPA Certificate Issuer (CI). The donor and CI will sign with digital signatures, using the National Digital Identity (NDI) credential. The donor will digitally sign the LPA as a deed. The donee(s) and replacement donee(s) need not use a digital signature and may accept their appointment through OPGO. Both the donor and donee(s) do not need to meet one another in person when donee accepts his appointment and signs the LPA. Annex A shows the differences between the current process of registering an LPA Form 1, as compared to the new process under OPGO.
c. An electronic copy of a registered LPA in OPGO will be treated as being free from error and as the LPA if there is no notification of any error within 90 days after the date of the notice sent by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG). All registered LPAs will be available on OPGO, including those in registered in hardcopy.
i. A donor, or donee (in the case where a donor has lost mental capacity), can inform the Public Guardian of any disparity between the electronic copy and the registered LPA within 90 days after the date of OPG’s notice, for the error to be rectified.
ii. If there is no notification of an error within 90 days, the electronic copy of the LPA will be treated as being free from error and as the LPA.
iii. There is also protection for donees and third parties who have transacted using an electronic copy of an LPA without having pre-knowledge of an error within that LPA.
d. Additional safeguard for donors. Where there are grounds to suspect that fraud or undue pressure was used to induce a donor to make an LPA or appoint a particular person to be his/her donee, the Public Guardian may interview the donor and disclose to the donor the number of LPAs for which his/her prospective donee has already been appointed, or intends to be appointed.
From Hardcopy to Electronic - Enabling a Secure and Seamless Transition
5. As OPGO will tap on the Singpass authentication system, individuals can expect a more convenient method of making LPAs, without compromising security. The donor and donee can also easily retrieve the latest version of the LPA via OPGO and not be concerned about misplacing the hardcopy registered LPA.
Assisting Those Less Comfortable with Digital Services
6. MSF will assist individuals who need help navigating OPGO. This includes leveraging on community touchpoints such as the Citizen Connect Centres (CCCs), the Integrated Public Service Centre (IPSC) at Our Tampines Hub, and various events and roadshows, to ensure that assistance will be provided for users who need help with the digital processes. The CCCs, which are available at community centres island-wide, are equipped with internet-enabled devices and staff to assist Singaporeans to perform Government transactions online. The staff at the CCCs and IPSC will be trained to assist the elderly and other persons who may have difficulties using OPGO, to make their LPAs electronically and access OPG-related transactions. OPG will also incorporate videos and guides within OPGO to guide users in making their LPA online. OPGO will have help prompts, available in the four official languages to assist the user. It will also have a text-to-speech function for persons with visual disability. Finally, OPG will engage social service agencies and conduct training sessions on how to make an LPA online. Help will also be rendered at OPG’s premises.
1 Most donors will use an LPA Form 1. Donors who wish to grant specific and customised powers to their donees will need to use an LPA Form 2. The LPA Form 2 must be drafted by a lawyer.
ANNEX A DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CURRENT AND NEW OPGO PROCESSES IN REGISTERING AN LPA FORM 1
|Step||Current Process||New OPGO Process|
1.Donor drafts the LPA Form 1, indicates details of donee(s) and powers to be granted
2. Donee(s) accepts appointment
3. Donor visits the Certificate Issuer (CI)
4. LPA is submitted to OPG for registration
5. OPG’s processing of LPA
ANNEX B QUOTES FROM SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTS
|Name of Partner||Quote|
Ms Yeoh Chee Yan
With the amendments to the Mental Capacity Act (MCA), Singaporeans will be able to go online for a more convenient way to make their Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). Even as the process is digitalised, it is reassuring that there will be safeguards in place to ensure that the integrity of the LPA-making process is not compromised, such as the authentication of identity through Singpass login and secured electronic signature. Further, retaining the requirement for the donor to meet with the Certificate Issuer in-person helps ensure that the donor independently understands the consequences of making an LPA.
I am heartened that the Office of the Public Guardian will establish convenient touchpoints in the community to assist citizens, who may be less digitally savvy or need technology support, with making their LPAs online.
Dr Habeebul Rahman S/O Sahul Hameed
The new system will reduce paperwork and the need to download and retain hardcopies when making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). The forms are conveniently accessed online and are easy to complete. The Donor can obtain his Donees’ consent to be appointed virtually. There is only 1 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.
Mr Low Mun Heng
Pre-planning is an important milestone to ensure that personal well-being is entrusted in the care of a reliable person should one ever lose mental capacity. At Sheng Hong LifePoint, we believe in promoting the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) as a legal instrument to provide protection against ill-intent especially for the seniors. We are also committed to supporting the less tech-savvy individuals who may approach our professional staff for individualised guidance in making an LPA when it goes digital.
ANNEX C DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
- Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) A legal document that allows a donor to voluntarily appoint one or more donees to make decisions and act on his/her behalf should he lose the capacity to make his own decisions.
- Donor The person, at least 21 years of age, who makes an LPA appointing donee(s) to take care of his/her personal welfare and/or property & affairs matters in the event he/she loses mental capacity one day.
- Donee The person who is appointed by a donor to make decisions and act on his/her behalf on personal welfare and/or property & affairs matters in the event the donor loses mental capacity one day.
- Personal Welfare Lifestyle-related decisions such as where the person lacking mental capacity is to live, handling letters/ mail, health care decisions if this power is expressly given.
- Property and Affairs Finance-related decisions such as dealing with property, operating bank accounts, tax matters, investments and receiving income/dividends.
- Deputy The person who is 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 prior to losing mental capacity. A deputy can be an individual, or a licensed trust company for property & affairs matters.
- Certificate Issuer An individual who is authorised by law to certify that when an LPA was made, (i) the donor understood the LPA and the scope; (ii) the donor was not induced by fraud or undue pressure to create the LPA; and (iii) there is nothing else that would prevent the LPA from being created. Any one of the following professionals in Singapore can be the certificate issuer (i) a medical practitioner accredited by the Public Guardian; (ii) a practising lawyer, or (iii) a registered psychiatrist.