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The Doctor's Consultation

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

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The Doctor's Consultation:  by Dr. Iain Corness

Flying away from Songkran

Songkran is 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 advice!


Heart to Heart  with Hillary

Hello Ms. Hillary,
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.
Lon
Dear Lon,
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.
Dear Hillary,
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 motorbike?
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!
Dear Hillary,
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?
Devastated Don
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 Harry Flashman

Technology is sometimes too smart?

We 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 claimed advances.
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 technology!
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 retrieval.


Money Matters:  Graham Macdonald MBMG International Ltd.

UK Inheritance Tax Part 2

Regarding last will and testaments (LWT), there are two main things to consider:
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 cash poor
- 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 re-invested.
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]