Experts call for more safeguards to LPA scheme

Experts call for more safeguards to LPA scheme
Madam Chung Khin Chun, the wealthy woman at the heart of a saga over the control of her $40 million assets, seen at the Police Cantonment Complex on 24 August 2014. Madam Chung has applied to revoke the Lasting Power of Attorney given to the man who allegedly manipulated her into giving him full control of her fortune.

SINGAPORE - Several experts have called for more safeguards to the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) scheme.

An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint another, labelled the donee, to make key decisions should he or she lose the mental ability to do so. Anyone who is at least 21 can sign one.

Currently, the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which maintains the LPA registry, can investigate cases in which the donee did not act in the best interests of the applicant. The Public Guardian can then apply to the court to revoke the LPA.

Of the 6,500 signed since the scheme was launched four years ago, not a single LPA has been revoked because of a court order. The 308 revocation cases so far have been due to other reasons, which could include termination by the applicant or the death of one of the parties.

Lawyers whom The Straits Times spoke to said that it would be useful for the OPG to make it mandatory for family members to be informed when a person applies for an LPA, especially when a non-relative is appointed. Before this month, there was an option for the applicant to inform others. This was removed after the form was cut from 15 to eight pages in a bid to simplify the process.

"I would have thought that it would be useful to inform the family and have any disputes (settled) while the applicant is still mentally able," said lawyer Sim Bock Eng of law firm Wong Partnership.

Dr Tan Hwee Sim, a psychiatrist at Raffles Counselling Centre, suggested background checks. "A certain group of people can also be excluded - for example, those convicted of offences involving fraud or dishonesty."

Currently, only undischarged bankrupts face restrictions on being given an LPA.

All LPA applications have to be witnessed and certified by a lawyer or medical practitioner, for instance, who has been accredited by the OPG. Some of them said they would conduct their own checks when suspicions are raised.

"If the (LPA) donor is very old and brings in a total stranger to be his or her donee when he has family members, that would ring an alarm bell," said lawyer Sng Kheng Huat of Sng & Company.

kcarolyn@sph.com.sg

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 25, 2014.
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