Yang Yin effect sparks rush for LPA scheme

A record number of people have appointed guardians to make decisions on their behalf, should they lose their mental faculties, in the wake of a high-profile court case last year where the issue surfaced.

This year, the Government is hoping to get an even greater number to sign up for the Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) scheme, by launching a publicity blitz and waiving the $50 application fee for now.

An LPA is a legal document that allows a person to appoint an individual to make key decisions for him, should he become unable to do so. Anyone who is at least 21 can sign one.

Last year, 3,250 people signed up, a 37 per cent jump over 2013, according to the latest statistics from the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which administers the scheme.

More than half did so in September and October, following reports in The Straits Times highlighting the case of China national Yang Yin, who is accused of manipulating an elderly widow into handing over to him millions in assets.

Yang, 41, has been accused by Hedy Mok of allegedly manipulating her 88-year-old aunt Chung Khin Chun into signing an LPA, which gave him control over Madam Chung's assets, worth an estimated $40 million.

Madam Mok also accused him of breaching his duties under the LPA, which was revoked in November last year.

Such abuse is rare, and rather than putting people off, the case seems to have increased public awareness.

Remisier Lim Meng Hong, 58, was among those who signed up last year.

The mother of three said: "It makes sense. You never know, you may suddenly fall ill."

While the OPG said that it "saw a very encouraging increase" in the number of applications during the last four months of last year, it hopes that everyone would consider it. 

"We hope more people will know about the benefits of making an LPA, and do so while they still have mental capacity," said a spokesman.

"Anyone can lose mental capacity at any age."

To help people make up their minds, it started a campaign on Monday - in print, television and social media - which features two siblings fighting over who should have the final say on their father's finances.

As at Dec 31 last year, around 8,750 LPAs in total have been accepted since the scheme started in 2010.

But some people remain reluctant to do so.

Retired engineering officer David Kwok, 64, said that the newspaper advertisements have informed him about the LPA, but the cost of several hundred dollars for a doctor or lawyer needed to witness and certify the LPA form is stopping him from going ahead.

"If it's free of charge, I would consider. Not just me, I think many of my friends would too," he said.

It will not be free but it will be cheaper to do so until September next year, as the OPG is waiving its $50 application fee during this time.



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