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Probate Matters in Thailand: Wills and Estates

Transcript of the above video:

I am briefly going to discuss Estate matters, mostly in the context of Expats here in Thailand. So although it will briefly touch on Thai legal matters, pertaining to estates and probate, bear in mind I am not a Thai attorney, we do have Thai attorneys on staff that handle such matters but I am only providing information as a sort of an overview.

A couple of things with respect to expats or people who spend a great deal of time in Thailand, or simply have property in Thailand and wish to deal with probate matters with respect, or estate planning and probate matters with respect to the Thai system.  Basically, the rule of thumb for an expat, in my opinion is: if one resides, or if one has property in a given jurisdiction, and one is thinking about estate matters one ought to probably have a will in that specific jurisdiction. If nothing else, a will is basically the best back stop for matters that could arise in the event of someone’s death and later probate of who is going to inherit that property. So if one has property in the Kingdom of Thailand, be it real estate in the form of, in most cases say in the form of a condominium or various bank accounts etc. simply having property here in Thailand, it’s probably a good idea to go ahead and have a Thai will. Secondly, with respect to property that’s owned in another jurisdiction say the United States, UK, somewhere else in the Commonwealth,  somewhere else in the world, basically again the rule of thumb is if you have property in a jurisdiction, it’s a good idea to have a will in that jurisdiction especially if that property is considerable.

So with respect to say the United States, one should probably have a will drawn up for themselves pertaining to their property in the United States as well as property in Thailand. One will for Thailand, is not going to necessarily be enforceable when probating matters in the United States and the same holds true with a will that’s made in the United States with respect to probating the inheritance of property here in Thailand. So these multi jurisdictional issues internationally, basically result in a situation where it’s advisable for an individual to have possibly more than one will and each of those wills to speak directly to the property which  is actually physically present in that jurisdiction. So that’s sort of the first thing to think about.

With respect to Thailand, there are various types of wills which could be enforceable pursuant to Thai law.  There is a registered will which can be registered at a local civil registrar’s office, there’s property witness will which can be just simply signed and witnessed by the appropriate number of witnesses possibly notarized and then there is also what are called holographic wills which are hand written, they are hand written by an individual. Some points to ponder about a holographic will is that it should be noted that, really one has to look at matters of enforcement, and a holographic will, although specifically permitted, pursuant to the civil codes here in Thailand, as a matter of enforcement and as a matter of actually undertaking probate, it is probably advisable to have a will professionally drawn up and in some cases actually registered depending on a given individual’s situation.  It should also be noted with respect to general estate planning, there may be other methods of securing the situation one desires following their death, through what are called “non probate transfers”, for instance payable on death benefits and these types of things. So, it’s advisable for those who are seeking assistance or who are seeking information about estate planning to keep in mind that the end all deal is not a will. It should also be noted that in Thailand, the notion of trust is basically, conspicuously absent from the Thai legal system so things like trust conveyancing and things like this that occur in common law jurisdictions are not particularly prevalent in Thailand except in very specific instances which we won’t get into in this video.

Again, this is just an overview about the situation as it sits so basically the thing to take away from this video is if one has property in various jurisdictions it is highly advisable to also have a will in each of those jurisdictions in order to ensure that in the event of one’s death, their wishes are carried forth in that specific jurisdiction.