You’re single, and you don’t have close family members or close friends who will look after you should you fall ill. Or, perhaps you do, but you don’t wish to “burden” them.
You are not educated, and never worked a single day. Your husband provided for the family. You weren’t rich, but you had enough: a flat, some savings. Suddenly, your husband suffers a stroke, and has since remained in a vegetative state. Your children have their own families and are not able to care for both of you.
You and your wife worked hard all your lives, and just as you are about to retire and enjoy your life together, your wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She suffers rapid deterioration and your children are overseas. You have medical problems, and you do not know how you are going to care for your wife and manage her affairs. You don’t wish to involve your relatives or friends in caring for both of you.
You are a self-made man, successful and respected in the business community. Despite that, you know that life can deprive us of our mental faculties anytime. You have three capable children, all strong-willed with strong views. You don’t wish their relationship to deteriorate while debating on matters relating to your personal welfare and your assets.
Can anyone help you in these situations?
On 21 September 2018, the Singapore government launched the Professional Deputy and Donee Scheme to support such patients and their loved ones. 13 lawyers, medical practitioners and social workers make up the pioneer batch of registered professional deputies and donees (PDDs).
How can PDDs help you?
PDDs make decisions about the patient’s personal welfare and/or property and affairs when the patient loses mental capacity.
PDDs do so based on care plans drawn up (and revised from time to time) to meet the personal welfare needs of the patient. They also prepare and execute financial plans to manage, preserve and apply the assets and income of the patient.
To prepare and revise such care plans and financial plans, PDDs are required to communicate frequently with the patient to understand his/her preferences and needs, meet with the patient’s caregivers, doctors, spiritual advisers, counsellors, social workers and other persons involved in the care of the patient. In addition, PDDs are expected to consult with professionals, where they lack the professional competence. For example, financial advisers may be required in the preparation of financial plans for patients.
Examples of the decisions relating to personal welfare are: where the patient will stay, who will look after the patient, which doctors to consult, which medical treatment to seek, when to stop medical treatment, and even whether to subject the patient to clinical trials. The PDD also decides the lifestyle and social engagements, as far as possible, of the patient.
The patient’s assets and income are also managed by PDDs. Such powers may include which assets are to be preserved, which may be liquidated, how the assets are to be applied.
How will you be protected?
The powers of the PDD is given by the court, according to the evidence and prayers put forward by the PDD in the court application to be appointed.
PDDs are registered professionals, and subject to the jurisdiction of the court and the Office of the Public Guardian (“OPG”).
There are various reporting requirements which PDDs must comply with, and they are also subject to legal duties and penalties for failing to act in accordance with their duties.
PDDs are required apply the five statutory principles enshrined in s 3 of the Mental Capacity Act:
- A patient is assumed to have capacity until otherwise established;
- A patient is not to be treated as being unable to make a decision unless all practicable steps to help them do so have been taken without success;
- A patient is not to be treated as being unable to make a decision merely because of their unwise decisions;
- Acts and decisions made for or on behalf of Ps must be done or made in their best interests; and
- Before an act is done or a decision is made, regard must be given as to whether or not the purpose for which it is needed can be as effectively achieved in a way that is less restrictive of the patient’s rights and freedom of action.
What if my PDD did not do perform the duties required?
To safeguard the patient’s interests, in addition to regulatory reporting and conduct requirements, the OPG will conduct investigations upon receipt of complaints about any donee or deputy not acting in the patient’s best interests and will take such action as it deems necessary. The OPG, in addition to its regulatory powers, can also refer the complaints to the courts.
Errant PDDs will be subject to a range of action, such as de-registration, penalties, and orders for compensation.
How do PDDs charge?
The fees of a professional deputy are approved by the Court.
If you appoint a professional donee to act for you when you lose mental capacity, you can agree on the fees directly with the professional donee.
If you cannot afford the fees, you can discuss with the PDD on a pro-bono or low- bono arrangement.
Should you or someone you know require a PDD, you may access the list of registered PDDs here.
Have a question on professional deputies and donees?
If you have any questions regarding professional deputies and donees, you can get request a quote with Chia Yong Yong or with other lawyers. Chia Yong Yong is a a registered PDD and she also acts in court applications for the appointment of deputies.
With Quick Consult, from a transparent, flat fee from $49, a lawyer will call you on the phone to give you legal advice.
This article is written by Chia Yong Yong from Chia Yong Yong Law and edited by Elizabeth Tan from Asia Law Network.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.