Inheritance & Succession

Inheritance & Succession

Thailand has an intricate law relating to Inheritance and Succession. Substantive knowledge of Thai law and court procedures is essential to protect the interests of the client. It is recommended that foreigners residing in Thailand have a will prepared in Thailand and one in their home country. A Thai will cover the person's assets in Thailand, including personal property, vehicles, bank accounts, and investments.

In this article we will discuss the following topics for your further information:

  • Statutory Heirs in Thailand
  • Will and Testament
  • Appointment of the Estate Administrator
  • Grounds for Discharging an Estate Administrator

Inheritance & Succession

1) Statutory Heirs in Thailand

When a foreigner dies in Thailand, a copy of the will must be provided to the courts, either by a member of the decedent's family or the deceased person's attorney. A decedent's property in Thailand is transferred by stipulations in the will or, if no will exists, by the law on intestate succession.

In both cases, a court must approve the legal aspects of the inheritance and will appoint an executor or administrator to handle the estate's affairs. When a person dies intestate, or not have executed a valid will, the entire estate is distributed among their heirs according to law.

According to the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand, Section 1629, the statutory heirs of a deceased person can be divided into six classes that can inherit in the following order as described below:

  • Descendants
  • Parents
  • Full-blood brothers and sisters
  • Half-blood brothers and sisters
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles

In addition to these six classes of legal heirs, the estate assets of the deceased person will also be distributed to the surviving spouse of the deceased based on section 1635 of the same code.

The aforementioned statutory heirs can be appointed as Estate Administrator themselves or they can appoint someone else who is not part of the legal heirs to be the Estate Administrator through consent and order from the Court. In Thailand, this process is supervised by the courts and is designed to protect the wishes of the decedent and the decedent’s heirs while complying with Thai laws.

2) Will and Testament
Estate administration and planning generally involve an attorney and client working together to structure the client's assets and plan for the distribution of the assets in the event of the client's death. This typically involves drafting a Will that meets a client's wishes and complies with all relevant laws. This could involve the establishment of trusts or other legal structures as well.

In accordance with the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand, Section 1646.
“Any person may, in contemplation of death, make a declaration of intention by will concerning dispositions as to his property or other matters which shall take effect according to the law after his death.”

There are different types of Wills in Thailand:

  • The most common last will and testament in Thailand is the last will in writing, dated at the time of making and signed by the testator in the presence of at least 2 witnesses who sign their names to certify the signature of the testator (section 1656 of the Civil and Commercial Code). It is not required that such a will is notarized or registered for it to be a valid legal will.
  • The last will in Thailand can also be made as a public document at the local Amphur (or in Bangkok these local public offices are called Khet), by a declaration to the relevant public officer. The testators must declare their wishes (in Thai) to public officials who in his turn must write down the testator’s declaration in the will in Thai (section 1658 of the Civil and Commercial Code).
  • The last will can be made at the same Amphur by a secret document. The testator in this case must close the document (his last will), sign it and hand it over to the same official (section 1660 of the Civil and Commercial Code). Two witnesses must also sign the closed document and the official will seal the closed last will and testament.
  • A person may under Thai law in certain cases, i.e. exceptional circumstances such as the imminent danger of death and where the person is prevented from making his will in any of the other forms prescribed in Chapter II sections 1655 to 1672 of the Civil and Commercial Code, make a valid will by word of mouth only.
  • A person under Thai law may also make a holographic testament, i.e. a testament written wholly by the testator himself, including the date of writing and signature of the testator (section 1657 Civil and Commercial Code).

Witnesses for the Wills in Thailand:

A Thai Citizen or Foreigner can be witness to a will.

Not Eligible to be Witnesses for the Wills in Thailand:
Minors
A person of unsound mind or quasi-incompetent persons under a Court’s order
Deaf or dumb or blind persons
A beneficiary in the last will and his or her spouse.

3) Appointment of the Estate Administrator
When a person passes away, the assets owned by such a testator shall be inherited to his or her heirs. Notwithstanding, there are details and processes that must be preceded by the heirs in order to manage the assets. The law actually requires an estate administrator to handle, distribute and protect such properties in good faith. However, the estate administrator must be appointed by the Will of the deceased or by a Court order.

The following are the duties of an estate administrator:

1. An administrator of an estate must prepare the list of the estate within 1 month from the death of the testator, from the date when the administrator has knowledge of his appointment under the will, or from
2. The date of his acceptance of being the administrator.
the administrator of an estate shall declare to the legal heir the progress of the assets’ distribution.
3. The administrator shall do the necessary acts of management such as to enter actions or to submit answers in Court.
4. He, she or they shall take all necessary steps to collect the debts due to the estate within the shortest possible time.
5. After the creditors of the estate have been satisfied with payments, the administrator shall divide the estate.

The Court shall consider if there is a will expressing the intention of appointing someone as an estate administrator, the Court has to order it in compliance with such conditions. However, if a person dies Intestate or has no will and testament, then the heirs or legatees can file for an application to appoint someone as the Estate Administrator and manage all of the estates of the deceased person.

The Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand, Section 1711 to 1733 determines the ways in appointing an estate administrator. There are two ways for an estate administrator to be determined:
1. Through a will of the deceased appointing such estate administrator or also called estate manager; and
2. By an order from the Court proposed by the heir(s) or the public prosecutor.In addition to the appointment by a will, heir or public prosecutor can appoint an estate administrator in case;

1. When the testator dies, any statutory heir or legatee is not found or is abroad or is a minor;
2. If the estate administrator or the heir is unable or unwilling to carry on or is impeded in carrying on the administration or distribution of the estate.;
3. If the condition of a will in appointing an estate administrator has no effect for any reason whatsoever.

4) Grounds for Discharging an Estate Administrator
The Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand stipulates the discharge of an estate administrator under Section 1727 which states
“ Any interested person may, prior to the completion of the distribution of the estate, apply to the Court for the discharge of an administrator for the reason of neglect of his duties or any other reasonable cause. Even after having assumed his functions, the administrator may resign for any reasonable cause subject, however, to the permission of the Court.”

This section of the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand stipulates that any interested person may apply to the Court for the discharge of an administrator for the reason of neglect of his duties or any other reasonable cause prior to the completion of the distribution of the estate.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court mentions that if an estate administrator is likely to be dishonest in managing and distributing the estate, a person of interest can discharge him or her as well, for instance, if the estate administrator prepares the false list of an estate or declare the false outline of family members to conceal the true amount of members then they can remove the said administrator as well.

Summary

Juslaws & Consult counsels clients in all areas of Thai family law including providing services related to wills in Thailand and estate administration in the event of death or incapacity

We have competent individuals in our company who can prepare the required documents and represent a client in the Court for the appointment of an estate administrator which is one of our family law services. Filing this motion to the Court requires several important documents such as a letter of consent from the heir having the right to the deceased’s assets with a relationship outline to be contemplated by the Court. We can also provide legal consultations to foreigners who wish to appoint an administrator in Thailand or to draft a Will in Thailand.

The lawyers at Juslaws & Consult have extensive experience in drafting Wills in Thailand and ensuring that the documents meet the requirements of both Thai law and the laws of the client's home country. It is strongly recommended that you contact a Thai lawyer if you want to create a will in Thailand or for estate administration. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information.