A Word on Thailand Wills if you have or want to buy property in Phuket
Planning for our passing is important, this article provides a Word on Thailand Wills. No matter where in the world you live, or where your assets are held, you should be sure to make a Last Will and Testament. Planning ahead ensures your loved ones will be looked after and makes the settlement of your estate far easier for everyone concerned.
In Thailand, there are no forced heirship laws. Forced heirship means that by law, the assets must be divided up amongst descendants and spouses. Countries such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal have forced heirship. Even Japan and many Arabic countries handle estates in this way.
So if you have Thai assets, especially something of significant value like real estate, then you should definitely have a Thai Will in place.
Thailand is influenced here by common law, and adheres to the rules of intestacy. If you die intestate (e.g. without a Will) your assets will be shared out equally between the statutory heirs. This means that assets are distributed according to different classes of statutory heirs, with descendants and spouses usually coming first.
But despite the fact that statutory heirs are the legal beneficiaries of your estate, don’t expect the procedure to be quick and fluid. It is anything but. Even if you are married to a Thai national, the settlement of the estate without a Will still inevitably turns into a lengthy process.
And this means legally married – the influence of common law in Thailand does not extend to marriage. If you’re not married to your partner, even if you have shared everything with them for many years, he/she will have no legal claim to any “joint” assets should you die intestate.
But what happens if you don’t have any family in Thailand and you never left a Will? The simple answer is that your family will be placed in an even more distressing situation than those described above.
To start with, they might have to fly 12,000 miles just to get to Thailand. Once here, the first hurdle is to prove they are who they say they are. Then they will have to go through the settlement of your estate, which is a complicated process that can only really be done using a Thai lawyer.
It could all take years to resolve, and as the lawyers’ work is quite in-depth, the fees involved will not be cheap. Depending on how long it takes, a huge chunk of the estate’s value, could be lost in lawyers’ fees alone.
There is also the chance that the authorities do not even recognise your family member as the beneficiary, which could mean they receive nothing.
Some people think they can get away with their overseas will (i.e. from their home country), which technically would be accepted in Thailand. But the probate of the estate still has to go through the Thai courts, which would require the Will to be translated into Thai. The translations also need to be notarized, and then authorised by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Thailand’s probate procedures are lengthy enough without the introduction of an overseas Will. Depending on the length of the Will, it could cost as much to have it translated and notarised as it would to draft a Thai Will in the first place.
What If I Inherit a Property?
If you inherit a property as a foreigner there a few things to consider.
Firstly, if it is a landed property (land, a villa, a bungalow), you are allowed to inherit it, but will not be allowed to title it in your own name. The property must be disposed of – to a Thai national – within a reasonable period of time (typically 180 days).
If the property is a condominium, the inheritance laws are more favourable. If you inherit a condominium you’re required to inform the Land Office within 60 days. There will be some fees involved because the title deed will have to be transferred into your name.
As mentioned earlier, there are two competing pieces of legislation to contend with on an inheritance. They don’t agree, nor can lawyers agree which one carries the most weight.
Whether or not you get to keep your inherited condo may come down to something as simple as which judge hears your case on the day.
So How Do I Get My Thai Will?
We recommend that you use a Thai lawyer to write a Will. It is quick and easy to do, and a good lawyer can assist you in doing everything correctly.
There are many services provided by the state in Thailand, and making a Will is one of them. However, you need to be fluent (or at least extremely conversant) in Thai to take advantage of this service. If you are a foreigner who can speak and write Thai, you can go to the local Amphur (District Office) and they will write a Will for your Thai assets.
When you get your Will, get as many copies as you need. Give one to every family member who you have named as a beneficiary. Make sure your lawyer keeps copies, keep one safe yourself, and also give one to a trusted friend.
By doing this, you will help to ensure a smooth transition of your estate to your heirs.