The Doctor's Consultation:
by Dr. Iain Corness
Flying away from Songkran
coming and my feet are getting wet! And so will the rest of me! So like so
many expats in Thailand, Songkran is the time to think about getting out of
the Kingdom. Unfortunately, all the countries surrounding Thailand celebrate
their own version of Songkran too, so if you want to stay dry, then you have
to look a little further afield.
This means a plane trip for most, as the slow boats to China are just that,
‘slow’. However, whilst you might get wet staying at home, there are a few
medical problems associated with plane travel. And this has nothing to do
with the kiss and tell ex-Qantas hostie and Ralph Fiennes.
The last time I flew, in the pocket in the back of the seat in front of me,
my carrier had a little brochure entitled In-flight Healthcare. It was one
of those multi-language numbers, and with my chosen carrier being a
Taiwanese airline, English is not the number one language. It was also
certainly not the native language of the compiler of the brochure!
The range of conditions covered was certainly extensive, right from immune
deficiency through to pregnancy (the Mile-High club has its dangers, as well
as being outed in public, it seems) and EVA did not like ladies flying with
a pregnancy greater than 32 weeks, without clearance from their own EVA Air
doctor - so ladies, be warned.
They even managed to touch on Public Health and Hygiene issues such as,
“Though the cabin air quality is better than that of home and office, a
cabin is still a public area where contamination is possible. We suggest
patients suffered [sic] from contagious diseases not to take any plane.”
They did not suggest to where you should take the plane! Of course, in such
enclosed confines, virulent viruses can run wild, and if the person next to
you is sniffling, find another seat if you can.
I must say I did find the advice under the heading “Heart Disease” somewhat
pessimistic where they claim that “Heart attack occurs twice as often in the
air than on the ground. Not to take air travel, if you have recently
suffered from a heart attack.” I do not know where they got their statistics
from, but I doubt the “twice as often” claim. However, if you do have
cardiac problems, discuss the forthcoming trip with your cardiologist first.
Probably of most use was the section on Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and now
sometimes called the Economy syndrome. Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and
caffeine and drinking plenty of water is all good advice, but this is
certainly difficult if you are flying with an airline which has free booze!
The brochure suggests doing aerobic exercises in your seat, especially leg
ones, but in actual fact it is a lot easier and simpler to just get up every
hour and just walk right around the plane. (Unless you are flying in a
Cessna, walking right around the cabin is a fair step.) For this reason, I
always ask for an aisle seat as you can get in and out more easily. On the
stroll drink a couple of glasses of water and your chances of getting a DVT
are really very small.
Other helpful hints included a section on taking your medication with you on
board. For people who have diabetes for example, where it is necessary to
have continuation of doses, it is no good if your tablets are in the hold!
Another small, but important item was the advice to ask for seats close to
the wings if you suffer from motion sickness. Fortunately I do not suffer
from that, I only suffer from abject fear, for which the brochure offered no
Heart to Heart
I have been a loyal supporter of your particular column, and the Mail in
general for many moons. While tied up here in Vancouver Canada, I find
your column very rewarding in that it is sort of like group therapy for
us Thailand stricken folks. I find you very caring, loving, but mostly
supportive of one and all who write in with their trials and
tribulations that are sincere and straightforward. There are certainly
so many varied experiences that us farangs encounter when first arriving
at the gates to heaven on earth. I do not want to get into any long
stories about my particular adventures in the wonderful land of smiles,
but suffice to say, they have all been earth shattering, and downright
addictive in nature. After many years of learning from my mistakes, I
now find myself engaged in a loving, caring, and real marriage to a bar
girl. In my eyes, and that’s the key; if we truly fall in love with
another human being, then we should be willing to ignore all the flack,
and give all our hearts and souls into that relationship, and embrace
that individual’s culture and customs and adapt! Simple as that! I think
the key is learn from our mistakes! And make the necessary adjustments
if that is really what you want. MONEY! Money is for here and now, so
lets enjoy all our adventures, good and bad, and try to make this planet
a better place for everyone, not just the chosen few. Thanks very much
for all your hard and entertaining work Ms. Hillary.
Thank you for all the nice words. It is always nice to think that
someone is reading this, and appreciates what goes into the column. You
are also very caring and loving, and have obviously developed a broader
viewpoint of life, and as you say, “lets enjoy all our adventures, good
and bad, and try to make this planet a better place for everyone, not
just the chosen few.” I also like your philosophy on love, especially
putting hearts and souls into the relationship. Sure, you may get burned
on the way through, but it is never the end of the world. If you made
money once, you can make it again. If you loved once, you can love
again. And you are right, my Petal. Learn from your mistakes - in
everything in life. Again thank you. You made my world a better place
today as well.
Love your new motorcycling column. I have a 100 cc step-thru. It doesn’t
leak oil. It is made in Thailand. I wear leather gear too. Does this
mean that if I get married, my wife will always look after me and the
Bill the Biker
Dear Bill the Biker,
Ooh, I love these people all covered in leather. But it’s a pity about
the size of the step-thru, my Petal. Size does matter, especially with
motorbikes. Yours is a little small I think. Does it still have trainer
wheels, or have you taken them off by now? And this by the way, is the
final motorcycle letter. Please!
Can you help me? I have been dating a wonderful young Thai girl, a
proper young “lady” not a bar girl, and we have become quite serious as
to looking into the future. Everything seemed to be going along very
well, although we did have some hiccups in the early part, just caused
through not fully understanding each other. The other evening over a
very nice dinner in our favorite restaurant, she dropped the bombshell.
“My mother tell me I must marry Thai man.” Just like that! I was too
flabbergasted to follow that line further. Hillary, is this a common
thing in Thai families? Does her mother have that much power that she
can dictate what her daughter does, and even the choice of husband for
her? Surely in this 21st century Thai girls are not stuck with arranged
marriages, and if they are, what can a farang do in this situation?
Dear Devastated Don,
Does her mother have that sort of authority? Unfortunately, Petal, in a
traditional Thai family she certainly does. It may be the 21st century
for you, Don, but in Thailand it is the 26th century and despite the
extra 500 years, the traditional ways are still very strong. Thai people
believe in the need for family members to look after each other and her
mother is merely looking after her daughter in the traditional way. You
are from an alien culture, Don, and even if your young Thai lady is well
versed in the ways of the modern international world, the traditional
values will still be held in the family sphere. Have you stopped to
consider that the Thai man may have already paid a dowry to the family?
In the case of a well educated girl this could go as high as 2 million
baht. What can you do? You can either keep in there and hope, or call it
quits now before you get in too deep. However, you should sit down with
your girl and discuss it first.
Camera Class: by
Technology is sometimes too smart?
live in a technological age. Everything from your computer to
your TV remote features ‘drop-down’ menus, through which you
scroll and then press the ‘select’ button or whatever. Even
resetting the digital clock in the family car requires an
instruction manual. With cameras, the digital revolution has
brought us the dreaded drop-down menu as well, plus other
These claimed advances include super little plastic bits called
‘memory chips’, onto which you store hundreds of your photos, to
download to your computer when you feel inclined, and print even
later. No more need to carry film canisters that store the
negative film with a measly 36 images on each one. Hooray for
However, it isn’t quite as good as it is cracked up to be! My
photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt brought a letter to my
attention that had been written to the Bangkok Post, in which
the letter writer was pointing out the fact that when he used to
travel he would take 12 rolls of print film with him, which gave
him a minimum of 432 frames. This needed the power of one fully
charged NiCad battery and he was set up for the trip.
But technology has arrived and now he needs three memory chips
to cover the same number of shots, with each chip costing around
B. 3,000. He also needs much more than one fully charged
battery, so needs to take additional ones, and a battery
charger. If he wished to save on chips being carried, he could
download his single chip to a computer, meaning that he would
have to carry a lap-top as well. The accoutrements of technology
becoming both space consuming, and expensive.
The writer also found that he was now totally dependent upon a
source of electricity, mentioning that sometimes this is not
available as in some places in India, parts of China, and remote
areas in Russia, Tibet and Nepal and many other countries.
Suddenly, technology and its drop-down menus is not so
user-friendly as it is claimed, and in fact has some serious
limitations. The battery technology is definitely lagging
behind. The writer states, “It tickles me pink to know it
(technology) is so easily defeated and fallible.”
Now it should be pointed out that the writer said he was forced
to go digital as his print film camera was deemed obsolescent
after being in his possession for 12 years. “Just think of the
simplistic beauty of a print film camera. Point, (auto) focus
and shoot,” he wrote nostalgically, almost as if he had been
forced at gun-point into the new technology.
Up till then, I felt very sorry for the writer, but what was
being glossed over is that print film, and print film cameras
are not dead (yet). By using a print film camera, you can have
all that simplicity, but in the final step of D&P, you can ask
the photoshop not to print, but download to a CD, thus getting
the advantages of digital technology, without all the froo-frahs
that goes with the digital technology.
So what camera am I using? A venerable old Nikon FM2N. A totally
mechanical camera, but I do use the inbuilt light meter with its
button battery that I change each year (whether it needs it or
not)! No drop-down menus, but handy rotary buttons on the top of
the camera which I can turn to change shutter speed and the ISO
of the film. A rotating ring on the lens barrel gives me
complete (manual) control of the aperture too. Advance the film
by working the lever. How simple is that? Unlike the letter
writer, I do not have to carry spare batteries either.
Returning to the letter, “My new digital has buttons, bells,
lights, menus to choose from, enough to rival a Boeing 747
cockpit. Who needs it all? Is it really necessary?” he asks. It
is simply not necessary.
I really do feel that by going to a high quality mechanical
camera and film, returning the results in digital (CD) form, I
am getting the best of both worlds. I am getting the writer’s
“simplistic beauty” plus the advantage of digital storage and
Money Matters: Graham
Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.
UK Inheritance Tax Part 2
Regarding last will and testaments (LWT), there are two main things to
1. The use of trust funds. Where a LWT deals with modest legacies or small
specific gifts given to children, there should not be any hassle. The
problems may arise where there is a trust fund that the children will get at
a specified age because the rules may increase the amount of tax that will
be payable in the future.
2. LWTs that create Interest in Possession (IIP) trusts that are defined as
where the beneficiary is entitled to the income of the fund but the capital
is held in trust for future generations. The important thing to remember
here is where the IIP does not begin immediately following the death of the
person who has made the LWT. An example is the LWT of a man who leaves an
IIP to his wife and then to his children for their lives with the capital
then divided up between any grandchildren. The tax implications will not
change for the wife but the children would be badly affected because they
would not start immediately on the man’s death.
As mentioned above, it is very important that it is stated that many LWTs do
not need re-writing as they will not be affected by the tax changes.
Typically, this is where all the gifts are outright - i.e. when the assets
will be given immediately to the person who is to receive them as well as
LWTs where all the property not given outright is held by wholly
discretionary trust. Also, there are LWTs in which each and every IIP meets
two conditions. One is that is starts immediately following the death of the
person who made it and the other is that when it finishes the assets pass
straight to someone that can receive them immediately.
Now that people have had time to study the new Finance Act 2006, most of the
new propositions and implications have been understood. The most important
thing is NOT to die whilst intestate and to make sure that assets go where
they are meant to. This is especially pertinent to those who have assets
overseas or work abroad. Despite the new Finance Act there are still
advantages in getting assets into trust and insuring against the worst of
the ravages of IHT.
What can definitely be seen from all of this is that even if a present LWT
looks to comply with all the new regulations it is worth an hour of time to
sit down with a professional person to discuss things as it could save your
estate hundreds of thousands of pounds - if not more. The qualified advisor
must know his business though - for instance, the Bereaved Child Trust does
absolutely nothing and is not worth the paper it is written on. However, the
NRB discretionary trusts and IOU powers for the debt in charge schemes are
still okay. This is because they have always been taxed in the same way and
there are no new changes in the 2006 Act. To expand further on this:
- Get an NRB discretionary trust
- The IOU powers will allow the trustees to accept a value of a property or
asset instead of cash. This is very useful if the estate is asset rich and
- To maximize both NRBs create an IOU or debt in charge scheme.
What this means is, rather than put cash into the trust, you put the
deceased’s value of the share of the family home, for example, which would
be repayable on the second death from the sale proceeds of the house. This
is very useful for High Net Worth estates where the assets are giving a
better return than they would if they were sold, converted into cash and
There are yet other ways to save money for your children. Whilst the new Act
has killed off most of the schemes that allowed grandparents to gift under
trust assets to their grandchildren, this does not apply to parents. It is
possible to save IHT by getting your LWT right. Just by setting up a
discretionary trust on the first death whereby the IHT NRB (basically, the
amount you can leave tax free) is put into this trust until the death of the
second spouse. It is at this point the property will go to the beneficiaries
but not through the estate of the second spouse. This means that the estate
is not so big which means less is subject to possible IHT. NRB trusts can
save 40% of the actual NRB thus resulting not giving HM Government,
potentially, hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Out of the many changes the new act has brought in, the one that has most
parents up in arms is that it is no longer possible to stipulate when a
child can inherit if they are over the age of eighteen. Basically, before
the new Act, if you thought that this age was too young you could nominate
an age where the estate could be accessed. This is no longer possible
without incurring tax.
A LWT is not just something that can help save tax. It is something that
enables your loved ones to ensure who gets what when you pass away. It is
not always the case that if you die intestate then your spouse will
automatically get everything.
If someone is living outside of the UK then it is usually best to have an
LWT in each and every country that there are any assets. Seek advice from
someone who has experience and qualifications in that country. Remember that
a trust, if set up correctly, can operate worldwide. The most important
thing is not to delay. Most of the good tax planning trusts can still be
used when anyone wants to make an LWT.
By getting your Last Will and Testament sorted now, it will give you peace
of mind and make things a lot easier for those you love. Even if you think
your present LWT is okay, still get it checked out - it will only take an
hour of your time. If nothing else, it will at least confirm that what you
now have is adequate. Just remember that IHT is the only legally avoidable
tax in the UK - why not get your own back on Gordon Brown?
The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be
reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept
any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any
responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not
taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please
contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]