Succession and Inheritance in Thailand
What happens if the deceased passes away without leaving a will?
The rule of intestacy will apply. This means that one will have to refer to Book VI of the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand as it is the law that governs the estate of the decedent.
According to Section 1620, where a person dies without having made a will, or if having made a will, his/her will has no effect, the whole of his/her estate shall be distributed among his/her statutory heirs according to the law. Where a person dies having made a will which disposes of or has effect for a part only of his/her estate, the part which has not been disposed of or is not affected by the will shall be distributed among his/her statutory heirs according to the law.
There are six classes of statutory heirs. Each class in entitled to inherit in the following order:
- brothers and sisters of full blood
- brothers and sisters of half blood
- uncles and aunts
The surviving spouse is also a statutory heir.
I intend to distribute all of my property to a beneficiary(s). What if I forget to include some of the property in my will?
Unless there is a provision in your will to the effect that any other property not specifically contemplated in the will shall be bequeathed to the beneficiary, that property will be inherited by your statutory heirs (namely, your spouse, your children, your parents, etc.) as the rule of intestacy will apply.
If I co-own a property with my spouse, say a condominium unit, and he/she dies, will I automatically inherit the whole property?
Not unless he/she executed a will clearly providing that you should inherit the whole property. As the concept of joint tenancy is not recognised in Thai law, if your spouse dies without leaving a will and the property in question is marital property, it will be equally split once the marriage ends (in this case, by death). As a spouse, you will receive an equal share of the property. The other half will be inherited by the statutory heirs. As the spouse is one of the statutory heirs, you will receive a portion of the other half (depending on how many and what class of statutory heirs are available). The remainder will be distributed among the other statutory heirs.
If the deceased adopted a child and later died without leaving a will, will the adopted child inherit the estate?
Yes, according to Section 1627, an adopted child is deemed to be a descendant in the same class as any non adopted child. An adopted child is not treated any differently in Thai law.
I am a statutory heir to property located in Thailand. What can I do to inherit the property?
You must be appointed by the court to be an estate administrator. To do so, firstly ensure that you are the person entitled to inherit the property. If you are not the only beneficiary/heir, e.g., you have other siblings, you and the other siblings must come to an agreement in respect of who will be the estate administrator. Once you have nominated an estate administrator, you must gather all relevant documents (e.g. death certificate, birth certificates, title deeds, letter of consent of heirs, etc.) and file a petition with the court to appoint you as the estate administrator. Once you are appointed, you will be issued a court order. You can bring this court order to government offices to effect the transfer of ownership of any property to your name and to distribute it among other entitled heirs.
Do I have to go to court in order to inherit property?
It depends on the value and the kind of the property left by the decedent. For example, if the deceased left a small amount of money in the bank, some banks may allow the release of such amounts without requiring a court order appointing an estate administrator (banks and financial institutions have their own regulations regarding the amount of money that may be released), meaning that you may only need to present the bank with a death certificate and your ID showing your relationship to the deceased. You can also inherit other types of property that do not require registration, e.g. computers, jewelry, or collectibles, without having to obtain a court order.
If I reside outside Thailand and want to receive an inheritance located in Thailand, do I have to be physically present in Thailand for the process of appointing an estate administrator?
You must be appointed as an estate administrator in order to be able to inherit certain properties like land, cars, or guns. This means that you will need to apply to the court to be appointed as the estate administrator. Normally the court will require you to be physically present on the hearing date to determine whether you are suitable to be an estate administrator. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some courts may now allow a hearing to be conducted online.
Since I reside outside Thailand, can I appoint someone who resides in Thailand to administer the estate of the deceased?
This is possible, but you do need to ensure that the nominated person is reliable and trustworthy, since estate administration requires a high degree of integrity and honesty. Please bear in mind that the court has a wide discretion to appoint whomever it believes to be in the best interests of the administration of the estate whilst honoring the wishes of the deceased.
What documents do I need to file with a petition to be an estate administrator?
Normally, these are the documents that are submitted along with the petition:
- Death certificate of the deceased
- Proof of residence of the deceased
- Marriage certificate (if the applicant is the spouse)
- Relative list (a family tree)
- Letter of consent of the heirs (if there is more than one rightful heir)
- Asset registration (e.g. title deed(s) or motor vehicle registration(s))
- Will (if any)
How long does it take for the process of appointing an estate administrator?
It generally takes approximately 3 months for the court to deal with an application and a further 30 days for the court to issue an "Order of Final Judgment." This is the document presented to any relevant institution(s) holding assets of the deceased to confirm the issue is final and can no longer be appealed to a higher court. However, if the petition to appoint an estate administrator is contested, the process can take up to a year or more.
Can I create a trust under Thai succession law?
This is not possible since there are no provisions in Thai law that support or regulate trusts. It is also a common problem when attempting to enforce the provisions of a will drafted in accordance with the laws of a foreign jurisdiction. Thailand did used to allow trusts, however, following reforms in 1923, the creation of trusts is not supported in Thai law and Section 1686 of the Civil and Commercial Code provides the following: "trusts created whether directly or indirectly by will or by any juristic act producing effect during lifetime or after death shall have no effect whatsoever."
I have assets both in my home country and in Thailand. What should I do?
You should make separate wills for the assets in both locations. For assets located in your home country, consult a lawyer who practices in that jurisdiction to ensure the draft of a legally valid will. For assets located in Thailand, consulting with a Thai lawyer would be the best option to ensure your assets in Thailand will be distributed in accordance with your intention.
SummaryEstate planning and succession in Thailand can be a difficult and complex area, particularly when there are multiple legal jurisdictions and foreign persons or entities involved. Our firm has a great deal of legal expertise and years of practical experience in helping our clients navigate this landscape. We can deal with a full range of succession issues. Please contact us if you need assistance with any of the following:
- Advice on estate planning and the draft and execution of wills in accordance with Thai law
- Help with the estate of a relative who has passed away in Thailand
- Court checks on the existence of any pending applications to distribute an estate
- Applications to the Thai court for the appointment of an executor (sometimes called ‘probate applications’ in other jurisdictions)
- The conduct of hearings in the Thai court, including the preparation of the applicant to give evidence to the court
- Contested wills and challenges to the distribution of an estate
- Estate administration and distribution, including assistance with dealing with banks, other institutions and the land office, preparing estate accounts and assisting with the distribution of the estate to the heirs
- Advice on inheritance tax issues and other tax issues relating to the sale or distribution of an estate and the transfer of proceeds outside Thailand