Why Getting Your Parents to Do Their Lasting Power of Attorney Can Save You >$5k & 6-Months Of Slog
Updated: May 12
Everyone should do their Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and get their parents to do theirs as it costs ~SG$100 and just 10 minutes, compared to the significantly more costly and time consuming deputyship application, according to Chen Yiyang, Director of YY Lee & Associates LLC. We spoke to Chen to discuss why families are suing each other over inheritance on a weekly basis, best practices for your estate planning and why divorce cases in Singapore will make great content for Tik Tok.
Don't appoint "lazy" people as executors of your will; family suing executors is a "common occurrence"
Even if you are not ready to do your will, do your LPA first
Keeping even a simple list of your assets can save others a lot of time, money and effort in future
Name: Yiyang Chen
Company: YY Lee & Associates LLC
Estate Planning Specialization: Will-writing, LPA, and Estate disputes
Base Country: Singapore
Service Style: Straightforward, fast, personal
Anything Interesting: Aspiring Tik Toker on Family Law in Singapore
Q: Can you tell me about yourself, how did you get into law?
Chen: My mum has been a lawyer for 43 years and owns her own legal business but I have never thought I’ll be a lawyer. My first degree was in Economics, and I worked in retail for a year and a half after graduating. During my time there, I saw how a lot of people who are uneducated were treated and it made me realize that I needed to learn more about basic personal rights. I wanted to better myself to help these people and that’s when I decided to enter law school.
Q: Who is your target audience?
Chen: People who come to me are mainly millennials, younger clients or older clients whose children reached out to me on their behalf. I see a need to service people my age, the millennials, because a lot of us are getting more asset rich and more astute with investments. It is also vital for people with young children to plan one's assets for any unforeseen circumstances.
Q: What are some of the issues millennials face in estate planning?
Chen: A lot of millennials use online trading platforms and invest in digital assets like cryptocurrencies. For estate planning, it’s less about how to distribute your digital assets to your loved ones but how will the executor of your Will be able to access and manage your digital assets after you pass away.
Another thing that I remind my millennial clients, who usually hold more varied types of assets like multiple bank accounts, different insurance policies etc., is that they need to list out all of these accounts and maintain a rolling list of their assets.
Keeping A List Of Assets Is Crucial
Without this list, when a person passes away, his/her estate lawyers have to write to banks, insurance companies and other institutions to request for more information about the deceased’s assets.
Generally, it takes about two to three months for these financial institutions to come back with the records, which is a big waste of time and money for your loved ones. If there are minor beneficiaries of the estate, i.e. children below 21 years old, this means the estate will not be settled for some time and the funds for them will be locked up.
I want to highlight to younger people, especially the millennials, that all you need to do is keep a rolling list of your assets. Just state the bank account, Central Depository (CDP) account and insurance policy numbers and other information, such as online trading accounts and digital assets.
You don’t need to record the exact value of these assets when you are still alive as the values only matter at the date of your death.
Q: Which part of estate planning do you specialize in?
Chen: I do a lot of Will and LPA planning with my clients. I started specializing in estate disputes last year, and it has opened my eyes to help me give better advice during the Will and LPA planning stages.
Q: What is the most common thing that people usually dispute about?
For instance, executors or administrators did not properly pay off the deceased’s debts and failed to give a statement of account to the beneficiaries. Executors generally think that once they give the money to the beneficiaries, their duties are completed. That’s not true. It is actually an ongoing duty for them. If the beneficiary asks for clarity of the estate at any point, the executors must be ready to provide account statements to show proof.
Sadly, as executors or administrators are usually the deceased or beneficiaries’ family members, people end up suing their own family. This is a very common occurrence.
[Besides appointing family members as executors, there is also the option of outsourcing the work to a third party by appointing professional executors in your will.
Check out the list of providers who offer professional executor service here.]
Q: How do you feel about handling estate dispute cases?
Chen: It’s sad and unnecessary. If people are more knowledgeable about what their rights and their duties as estate administrators or executors are, then we would not have so many disputes. Sometimes I think it’s because they have not been properly advised in the planning stage, such as unclear terms in the Will, and that’s when disputes emerge.
Q: What are the things that people should consider when they appoint executors in their Will?
Chen: There are two things that people need to consider.
First, you must choose someone that you can trust and who is not lazy. There are a lot of lazy people in this world and it really matters. I have seen quite a few estate beneficiaries who did not get what they were supposed to get because of lazy executors.
Second, you must make very clear and unambiguous instructions in your Will. If the terms in your Will are complicated, the executor cannot properly administer the estate and will have trouble carrying out your intentions.
I have a lot of clients who came to me with their signed 10-page long Wills, and they would ask me to simplify it because they don’t even understand the document themselves. When I understand their intentions and write a new Will for them, they are always surprised at how simple a Will can and should be.
Q: If things change later on in life, how can people make adjustments to their Wills?
Chen: I would always tell my clients to review their Wills at least once every 10 years. Only in the event that they want to remove someone or add a new person as a beneficiary, then they need to draft a new Will.
For example, if you and your spouse made your Wills when your children were underage (below 21 years old), I would tell you to redo your Will as soon as your children reach 21 years old, because you may have appointed someone to be their guardian to take care of your kids’ money.
But when they are of age, they don’t need guardians and you don’t want to burden the appointed person anymore. So you should review your Will to see whether you want your kids to be holding the money themselves when they are 21 years old.
You should also draft a new Will when there are major changes in your life, such as when you have children, when you have more children, and when they grow up and become adults.
Q: Should people do their Wills if they are single?
Chen: If you are single, it’s even more so that you should have a Will to give clear instructions on who you are giving your assets to and how your assets are going to be managed subsequently. In addition, prepare a rolling list of your assets. The foremost reason is to make things easier for your parents in case you pass away before them.
The thing about intestacy law (a set of distribution rules determined by the law) is that people think it’s very straightforward, but it can also cause issues that people never think about.
For example, if you are single and you pass away without a Will, according to intestacy law, your assets will be distributed to your siblings if you don’t have any children and both of your parents have already passed away.
Prevent A Foreseeable Issue
For one of my clients' cases, the sibling passed away before him, so his sibling’s children are entitled to their parent’s share of his inheritance. But the children were underaged, and this resulted in a lot of issues, such as co-administrator issues. When there is no Will, at least two individuals acting as co-administrators or a trust corporation must be appointed to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration for underage beneficiaries.
This resulted in a longer process to obtain a Grant of Letters of Administration (a legal document that gives the administrator the legal right to manage and distribute the deceased's estate).
The estate planning stage is very important, because it can lead to a lot of problems during probate if there’s no considerate planning done.
Q: Are there other things people should be aware of, to prevent disputes, when drafting their Wills?
Chen: There was a case that I did, where a client of mine came back to me and said he decided to give the flat to one of his children only. Honestly, when I first heard it, I genuinely felt scared.
“What is happening?” and “Why is he cutting off the others?” were some of the questions that immediately came to my mind. His reason was that because when he got into a car accident, this child took care of him very well. So he wanted to reward the child with the flat.
It definitely rang some alarm bells, because I can already imagine the other siblings feeling very unhappy when they learn of this arrangement.
When a child brings the parents to my office, especially when the child is not the only child and the siblings didn’t come together with the rest of the family, I would always ask the child to leave the room so I can talk to the parents privately to understand whether those are their real intentions or were they under any undue influence of someone else.
Q: Let’s talk about LPA. In what circumstances do people need an LPA or a deputyship?
Chen: I tell my friends all the time that even if they are not ready to do their Wills, they should definitely get their LPAs done first.
(LPA is a legal document that allows you to appoint one or more persons to make decisions on your behalf if you lose mental capacity one day.)
For example, when someone is injured at work, generally there would be workmen injury compensation to be paid out to the injured person.
But if the person is also mentally incapacitated from the accident, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) or the employer will only release the compensation to the injured person’s donee (person appointed by you to decide for you) according to the LPA or to the deputy (person appointed by the Court to decide for you) when there is no LPA.
Deputyship vs LPA
Recently I handled one deputy case where a client of mine desperately needed a deputyship. Her parents wanted to purchase one of the silver generation Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats a few years ago, and their intention was to get this new flat and sell their old HDB flat.
While the parents were waiting for the flat to be built, the father lost mental capacity, and he couldn’t be there to sign the documents and receive the keys for the HDB. Since he didn’t have an LPA, the only way for the wife and daughter to be able to handle his affairs is to obtain a deputyship, which is a lengthy court process. If he had an LPA, they wouldn’t need to go through all these troubles.
LPA is the most important for bank accounts and properties. When you don’t have an LPA and become mentally incapacitated, your family needs to go to court to get deputyship to be able to access your bank accounts and manage your properties and affairs.
A lot of people think that LPA is a hindrance and a very complicated matter. I once visited a friend at her place not long ago. She has two young kids, and it has dawned on me that both she and her spouse did not have LPAs. I offered to help them get their LPAs done right on the spot. They tried to brush me off at first, thinking it’s something very difficult to do, but they were really surprised that the whole application process was completed in 10 minutes.
Even though you may not want to do a Will now, you should do your LPA first.
Q: How long does it take to apply for deputyship and get appointed as a deputy, and how much does it cost?
Chen: The court application will cost about SG$5,000-6,000, whereas signing an LPA costs about SG$100.
[Accredited doctors and lawyers can help you sign your LPA, with prices starting from $45, according to Immortalize database. Check out the list of providers here.]
The reason why the market rate for application of deputyship is so expensive is because the procedure is very long. It takes at least three to six months to be appointed as a deputy, and that’s the usual time for uncomplicated and uncontested cases. Also, there are so many documents to produce.
For example, if your parents lived in a nursing home, you have to prepare the nursing home agreement, list of expenses, etc., and obtain a medical report from the hospital to submit to the Court.
A medical report is very expensive. There are two types of medical reports, one that is general and the other one is specific for mental capacity, which costs at least SG$400-500, depending on the hospital. If your parent has an LPA, you only need the general medical report to activate the LPA, which costs less compared to the mental capacity medical report.
Q: What would you recommend the younger generation to do to start conversations with their parents and encourage them to do their last mile of life planning?
Chen: I would recommend the younger generation to start conversations with their parents about last mile of life planning as soon as possible. I always tell people, such as my cousins and friends, to get their parents to draft their Wills and complete their LPAs, because things will be easier for them later on when they need to handle their parents’ affairs.
Q: What are your hobbies?
Chen: After work, I like to go through Tik Tok and social media every night for at least one and a half hours, where I get to learn a lot of things. I watched a lot of family lawyers who are based in the United Kingdom and United States on Tik Tok. Basically, they would very quickly answer questions on laws such as basic divorce law.
My mum and I have been trying to learn their style as we have plans to set up a similar account one day. Divorce cases in Singapore are confusing to a lot of people, and often misunderstood, so we believe creating Tik Tok videos to explain about family law in Singapore will be extremely informative (laughs).
This interview has been edited for length.
Why do I need Schedule of Assets?
With an updated Schedule of Assets, it makes the probate process cheaper and faster.
What do I need to include in Schedule of Assets?
General information about your assets should be included in the Schedule of Assets. Include the bank account, securities account, insurance policy numbers and other information such as online trading accounts and digital assets. The exact value of these assets are not needed. The values don't matter when you are alive. They only matter at the date of your death.
Should I do my will if I am single?
If you are single, you should do a Will to give clear instructions on who you are giving your assets to and how your assets are going to be managed. Make sure you also include a list of assets to make things easier for your parents in case you pass away before them. Although Singapore has a very straightforward intestacy law, it can also cause issues that people never think about.
When do I need an LPA or deputyship?
You should do your LPA when you have mental capacity. When you don’t have an LPA and become mentally incapacitated, your family will need to go to court to get deputyship, a lengthy and costly legal process, to be able to access your bank accounts and manage your properties and affairs.
Why is a deputyship more expensive than doing an LPA?
Deputyship is expensive because the procedure is very long. Usually, for uncomplicated and uncontested cases, it takes at least three to six months to be appointed as a deputy. You will also have to provide many more documents, such as a list of expenses, medical reports, etc.
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