It’s not exactly a pleasant thought to anticipate your own demise, but unfortunately, we’re all heading there someday, so it’s best to prepare for the inevitable and try to make it a bit easier for our dependents who will be left to pick up the pieces (hopefully only figuratively).
If you’re going to buy property in Thailand, please make sure you make a Last Will & Testament in Thailand. A will made overseas can be very difficult to enforce in Thailand, particularly if the deceased has a Thai spouse or any local dependants. This is not to say you should rely solely on a Thai Will. Whatever assets you have outside of Thailand cannot be assigned in a Thai will so make sure you do this in every country where you hold money or assets.
I always recommend to my clients set up a Thai Will immediately after transferring a property into their name. The cost is quite minimal at about 5,000 – 10,000 THB depending on which law firm you use. The lawyer will take copies of all pertinent documents such as chenotes (property title deeds), bank books, registration books for cars, etc. This will all be documented in duplicate with one sealed copy given to you and another sealed copy left with the lawyer and (hopefully) kept in their safe.
The document will detail your assets in Thailand, such as property, bank accounts, vehicle, and personal items. Typically upon the death of a foreigner in Thailand, the government officials will ask the family for a copy of a Will or they will seek the deceased person’s lawyer for this document.
In the event that there is no In a Thai will, the estate’s assets must be distributed in accordance with the classes of relations as stipulated in the CCC Article 1629 which are, in order of priority:
3. brothers and sisters of full blood;
4. brothers and sisters of half blood;
5. grandfathers and grandmothers;
6. uncles and aunts.
Before any distribution of the estate to the relatives, half of the estate, known as Sin Somros, will belong to the spouse, if any. This order of importance would not suit many, I’m sure.
The rest will be equally distributed accordingly. If there are no living relations and no Thai will, the estate will devolve on to the State – hence I strongly recommend making a Thai Will to cover all of your properties and assets in Thailand.
If you own a property such as land and house under company ownership, upon your demise your property would not simply be passed on to your heirs. Instead, it would be passed on in the form of shares. In other words, your heir will receive shares of the company as opposed to the actual property itself, which can involve complex legal mechanisms. It is therefore imperative that you arrange for the drafting of a Thai will. In this case, the will would have to include copies of your company papers including all shareholder information and specific instructions on how to reassign your company shares.
For those who acquired a property under a leasehold structure, the situation is a bit different. A lease is a personal right that is not attached to the property and essentially terminates when the lessee dies. So if you make a renewable long term lease and have already paid the rental in advance, you should also ensure that there is a succession clause in the lease contract so as to allow you to transfer your right of the lease to your heir. Nevertheless, you should still have a Thai will which states your clear intention to pass on such rights to your loved ones.
Purchasing property in Thailand involves a very simple process, yet if the worst happens, the simplicity of the system can suddenly become very cumbersome, particularly for those relatives who have come to sort out your estate. We are all old hats at this Thailand thing, but I think most of us tend to forget how intimidating it must seem to those who have never dived headfirst into the system here before. And if things were to be disputed and have to go to court – ask anyone who has had to go through those mechanisms in Thailand before – final decisions and verdicts can take years and be very costly. Avoid this at all costs.
For the cost of a nice meal out for two, it’s crazy not to take advantage of this very easy process – so if you have any assets in Thailand, particularly high-value items such as property, take an hour out of your day and go see a professional. I don’t make a habit of recommending people in this article, but if you send me an email, I’d be more than happy to refer you to a reputable firm.
By Stu Sutton
Stu Sutton is managing director of Jomtien Property and has worked exclusively in the Pattaya/Jomtien real estate market for 16 years.
Please feel free to contact him with any queries, compliments or good jokes at
086 108 6575, [email protected]
or visit Jomtien Property’s website at www.jomtien-property.com