As you probably know, in Thailand the property of a deceased person devolves on his/her heirs. A properly drafted Last Will is the best way to guarantee that your wishes are respected and to avoid family disputes after your death.
A well drafted Will can save your family a lot of time and stress. The settlement of your succession will largely depend on it.
When you pass away in Thailand there are many processes and details to manage before a statutory heir can receive their inheritance. This is especially true if your assets are held in a Thai company in foreign names.
A Will can ensure that your property passes on to the people you want to receive it after your death. It also helps avoid any unnecessary legal fees or court costs.
A Will must be written by you in the presence of two competent witnesses (not your friends) and it can either be handwritten or typed. It must be dated, include clear instructions and express your wishes as to the distribution of your estate after your death. It is not expensive to draft a Will in Thailand and it can save your family or loved ones a lot of time, stress and money later on. It also ensures that your property is transferred to a statutory heir in accordance with Thai Inheritance Law.
When you die without a Will or any binding declaration of succession (known as dying intestate), the assets in your estate are distributed according to Thai law. The heirs will be determined based on a set sequence – beginning with your next of kin. This process is called intestacy and, in the absence of a Will, will not take into account your personal wishes or needs, such as special provisions for loved ones with disabilities. In addition, the laws may not provide for children born after the deceased and may not address illegitimate family members. It can also be complicated if the deceased was married or had children with different partners.
Distribution of Assets
When a foreign national dies in Thailand with or without a Will, the estate must be administered. This requires a petition to be filed with the court having the territorial jurisdiction where the decedent was domiciled at the time of his/her death. The petition must include a death certificate, a list of relatives, birth certificates of the legit heirs and a list of assets.
If the deceased had a will, it should be submitted to the executor named in the document along with any supporting documents that are relevant to the estate. The executor will then notify the beneficiaries of the estate of their right to receive a share of the estate.
In the case of property designated as marital property, a spouse has the right to half of the estate. The rest of the estate is divided amongst other statutory heirs. This is where having a Will becomes very important. A Will allows a person to choose his/her Legal Heirs and also to appoint Guardians in the case of minor children. In addition, a Will can be used to make gifts or legacies.
A person who dies in Thailand will normally need a Thai probate lawyer to wind up the estate and ensure that all institutions, banks, government agencies, etc. are notified of the death. The executor will also be responsible for collecting and managing the deceased person’s assets and property, paying any debts and taxes and distributing the remaining assets and property according to instructions in the will.
For a foreign person, the best way to avoid probate is by establishing ownership through joint ownership with a Thai citizen or by transferring the property into a usufruct. However, even this can involve legal requirements and court costs.
An estate administrator must be appointed by the court or mentioned in the will to protect, distribute and handle the estate assets before the heirs can inherit. Then, the administrator must keep the heirs updated on the progress of the estate process. The law stipulates six classes of heirs: descendants; parents; brothers and sisters of full blood; brothers and sisters of half blood; grandparents; uncles and aunts.