Protect your interests through the Mental Capacity Act
Our ability to make decisions can be hindered by a debilitating accident or illness. With the Mental Capacity Act, people are empowered to plan in advance for such an eventuality.
What happens if you lose the capacity to make decisions? Who should take charge of your welfare, and what happens to your property and affairs in the event of that? In view of these important questions, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports introduced the Mental Capacity Act that came into effect on 1 March 2010. There are many causes of mental incapability – dementia, effects of a stroke and accidents are just the few that can happen to anyone.
The Mental Capacity Act enables people to plan ahead and gives them the power to make choices for their future before they lose their mental capacity.
Under the Act, individuals with mental capacity, aged 21 years or older (the ‘donor’), can make a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to appoint one or more persons (‘donee[s]’) they trust to make decisions for them in the event they should lose mental capacity one day.
Powers can be granted to specific donees in the areas of personal welfare as well as property and affairs matters. By indicating one’s considered choices and preferences in an LPA, family members and loved ones would have clarity of an individual’s preferences and greater peace of mind.
CASE STUDY 1:
Pang Tong Teng is a 63-year-old single retiree.
• He worries that his caregivers may not have the necessary authority and powers to take care of his affairs should he lose the capacity to make decisions.
• He understands the importance of planning for his future so that should he become mentally incapable, his loved ones can take care of his needs without having to go through the hassle of cumbersome court procedures.
Pang has since registered for an LPA with the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) and appointed his niece as his donee.
CASE STUDY 2:
Lim Chong Tong, a 63-year-old retiree.
• Married with two children – a son and a daughter.
• Lim is concerned that he may one day suffer from dementia and lose his ability to make decisions. He has appointed his eldest daughter Swee Lin, who is meticulous and caring, to look after his personal welfare matters;
• And his son Boon Keong, an accountant, to handle his financial matters.
LASTING POWER OF ATTORNEY – A legal document which allows a person who is at least 21 years of age (the ‘donor’) and who has mental capacity, to voluntarily appoint one or more persons he trusts (‘donee[s]’) to act and make decisions on his behalf if he should lose mental capacity one day.
• Madam Chan is the court-appointed deputy for her husband who suffered a stroke resulting in the loss of his memory.CASE STUDY 3:
Madam Chan is a 54-year-old kitchen assistant.
• Having endured tedious procedures and multiple trips to the Court to be appointed as her husband’s deputy, Madam Chan is worried that her son will have to undergo the same if she requires care in the future.
Knowing the unpredictability of life, Madam Chan has made an LPA, appointing her son as her donee so he can automatically assume the responsibility of taking care of her needs should any eventuality arise in the future.
COURT-APPOINTED DEPUTY – A deputy is appointed by the court to make certain decisions on behalf of a person who is intellectually disabled or loses mental capacity without a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place.
Unexpected crises can befall at any time, to anyone; it is wise to take charge and plan ahead like Pang, Lim and Madam Chan.
There are two versions of the LPA. Form 1 contains mostly checkboxes for donors to grant general powers to their donees with the option to select basic conditions or restrictions to these powers. This form can be self-completed by the donors. Form 2 contains mostly free text spaces where individuals can give specific powers to their needs. This form is to be drafted by a lawyer. Either form has to be submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian, a division within MCYS, and there is a fee required for each form. It will take six weeks to register if the LPA was made in accordance to the Act and no objections were received by the Office of the Public Guardian. Tto download the forms above, go to the Office of the Public Guardian at www.publicguardian.gov.sg/LastingPA.html
The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), a division within MCYS, is responsible for administering the Mental Capacity Act. To find out more, visit their website at www.publicguardian.gov.sg. You can also call the OPG Hotline at 1800-226-6222 or email: email@example.com if you have any queries.
OPG also conducts free workshops regularly at the end of each month for members of the public who are keen to find out more about the Act and how they can make an LPA. Check OPG’s website for registration details.
The above article was contributed by the Office of the Public Guardian/MCYS. Special thanks to Laura Chua, Janice Foo and Amanda Kwek.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings Limited. With permission.)