A lasting power of attorney (or the “LPA”) is a document which allows an adult (i.e. someone who is at least 21 years of age) to voluntarily appoint another person (or persons) to make decisions on his behalf in matters of, among other things, personal welfare and/or property and affairs, in the event he or she loses his or her mental capacity.
While loss of mental capacity is often linked to age-related issues such as dementia, people of virtually any age can lose their mental capacity due to neurological diseases or accidents. Mental capacity may however only be assessed on a case-by-case basis and cannot be assumed based on a medical condition alone.
As in the case in wills, drawing up a lasting power of attorney is often thought about as one advances in years. As with most things, there is no hard and fast age at which one should consider these matters. We would therefore recommend that every person of age make an LPA as early as possible, while one is still mentally alert, lest a tragedy strikes and it becomes too late after one becomes mentally unsound.
Again, much like wills, the decision to sign an LPA is often not just for the benefit of oneself (i.e. since one can choose a trusted friend or advisor to make one’s decisions if the time comes), but to prevent one’s loved ones from being faced with the stress and difficulties that come with applying for a deputyship order if one loses mental capacity without an LPA in place.
Quite recently, the process involved in preparing an LPA has been greatly streamlined and simplified. You can now access an e-service portal (https://eservice-msf.msf.gov.sg/) which allows you to, among other things, prepare your LPA application and update your particulars online.
Please contact us if you need any assistance in preparing or certifying your LPA. We will be happy to guide you through the process.
With the widespread reliance on computers, this issue does not often arise in present times, but there may be instances when you feel that handwriting a will is the best way to keep it a secret and to avoid detection from greedy relatives who may otherwise insist on being kept apprised of the situation (or potentially even hack your computer to get access).
But would that handwritten will be valid?
Sometimes referred to as a “holographic will”, such handwritten wills are treated differently in different jurisdictions. In Singapore, for a handwritten will to be valid, the formal requirements of a will should still be met, i.e. rules as to formal validity. This includes the following: The will must be (a) signed by the person creating the will (also known as the testator); (b) (the signature must be) at the end of the will; and (c) the testator’s signing of the will must be witnessed by at least two people. We should mention for good order that these witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the will or spouses of the beneficiaries of the will as the gifts to those beneficiaries may then not be valid.
Quite apart from the formal validity of the will, a real practical issue that handwritten wills have is interpretation. In our view, the risk of handwritten wills being unenforceable is often not because of issues of invalidity, but more because the wills are illegible and the testator’s intentions not abundantly clear. In such instances, your intended gifts may be erroneously made to another person, especially in cases where there is room for ambiguity (e.g. where your children’s names differ by only one letter such as an ‘a’ and ‘o’ or an ‘i’ and ‘l’).
In conclusion, while we would caution against handwritten wills for reasons of clarity, there is no legal impediment (save for formal validity requirements) against hand-writing your will.