How is the inheritance procedure organized in Thailand?

The estate planning by will is strongly recommended when you are owner in Thailand. It will then allow to organize the succession of your assets in Thailand according to your testament and under the Thai system.

It is important to note that a testament written in your country of origin is valid, however, a judicial probate procedure will be necessary in Thailand. Therefore, a testament made in a country other than Thailand covering Thai assets may be problematic. Indeed, these documents will have to be translated, notarized and approved by a Thai government agency and this procedure will entail the relocation of your heirs to Thailand.

Under the Thai system, two categories of heirs can be designated as beneficiaries: the legal heirs and the legatees.

According to article 1629 of the Civil and Commercial Code that regulates family law, there are seven categories of legal heirs. They are entitled to acquire your property in the following order:

➤ The surviving spouse
➤ The descendants
➤ Parents
➤ Brothers and sisters
➤ Half-siblings
➤ Grandfathers and grandmothers
➤ Uncles and aunts

The legatees are named in the testament. No restrictions are mentioned in the law concerning them.

On the other hand, if a person who owns property in Thailand has not made a testament, Thai law provides that under section 1635 of the Thai Civil and Commercial Code, the spouse will be entitled to half of the matrimonial property called “Sin Somros”. The remaining property will then be divided between the spouse, the children or the legal heirs. The assets of the deceased should be divided in accordance with the relational categories stipulated in Article 1629 of the Civil and Commercial Code which are organized in order of priority.

In addition, Thai law does not provide for the right to a reserved heir; any person may be voluntarily excluded from the estate of a deceased person. Finally, if the deceased has no heir and no Thai testament, the estate reverts to the Thai State.

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What are the different forms of testament?

Thai law defines a will as the instrument by which a person declares the disposition of his property or the organization of his estate after his death. According to article 1656, in order to be valid, the will must: be written by a person of sound mind, dated and signed by the testator. It must also be in one of the three forms provided for by the civil and commercial code.

1. The holographic testament dedicated to article 1657 of the civil and commercial code.

This is the most common form of Thai testament. It must be written, dated at the time of drafting and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses who must also sign to certify the signature of the testator. The testament does not need to be notarized or authenticated to be valid. It must be witnessed only by the witnesses. The text can be written in a language other than Thai.

2. The authentic testament under Article 1658 of the Civil and Commercial Code

It must be made at the district office, by declaration before a public officer. The testator must orally declare the division of his estate to the public officer who draws up his testament. The officer will read the testament back to the testator and to the witnesses who must sign the document. The testament will be automatically registered at the district office, so it will be more easily accessible. This procedure is only done in Thai language, it is necessary to speak Thai.

3. The secret testament under Article 1660 of the Civil and Commercial Code

Like the authentic testament, it is also made at the district office. The testator will have to write the will himself, close it, sign it and give it to the public officer. Two witnesses will have to sign the act and the officer will finally seal the testament. Like the authentic testament, it will be easier to access and written only in Thai.

Who can be a witness?

According to Article 1670 of the Civil and Commercial Code, the persons who may not witness a testament are:

➤ Persons who do not have legal autonomy
➤ Persons who are mentally feeble or considered nearly incompetent by court order
➤ Persons who are deaf, dumb or blind

Who is responsible for supervising the funeral of the deceased?

The execution or administration of a testament in Thailand is subject to the appointment of an administrator. The choice of the administrator is very important because he or she has the power to organize the funeral. It is best to choose someone who is trustworthy, knows the Thai system, speaks the language or has access to a translator and is younger than the testator.

As with witnesses, there are restrictions on who can be an administrator:

➤ Minors
➤ Persons who are mentally feeble or considered nearly incompetent by court order
➤ Persons who are bankrupt by virtue of a judgment

Witnesses and executors may be Thai or foreign nationals. On the other hand, the beneficiary of the will can be appointed as executor or administrator but cannot be a witness to his or her own testament.

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What must the testament contain?

The testament must mention the heirs and the rules for the devolution of your assets. It must include a list of beneficiaries, executors or administrators, including the following information for each of them:

➤ Name, first name
➤ Telephone number
➤ Address
➤ E-mail address

In general, the testament will detail your assets in Thailand, such as property, bank accounts, vehicles and personal items. The testament should then include a list of assets.  The assets concerned by Thai wills are only local assets. Indeed, assets located abroad are not affected by this act since the Thai probate court only deals with local assets. Overseas assets must be recorded in another testament.

The testator may decide to include specific funeral arrangement requests. Thus, the administrator or executor of the testament has the power and duty to make funeral arrangements for the testator, unless another person has been specifically appointed to do so.

In addition to the testament, the testator should bring copies of the following documents:

➤ The testator's passport
➤ The passport(s) or identity card(s) of the heir(s)
➤ The testator's birth certificate
➤ The birth certificate of the heir(s)
➤ The list of assets
➤ Documents proving possession of the assets (bill of sale, bank statement...)

What procedure should the heirs follow?

The heir will have to meet with a lawyer to file a motion to appoint the administrator before the competent court. Certain documents must be submitted to the competent court:

➤ The original testament
➤ Copies of the passport of the testator, heir(s), administrator(s)
➤ The copy of the death certificate of the testator certified by the Thai lawyer, the Thai embassy or consulate

How much is the inheritance tax in Thailand?

Whether the inheritor is a legal entity or an individual, inheritance tax is compulsorily applied on what he inherits under the Thai Inheritance Law Act BE 2558. The tax also applies to property in Thailand inherited by non-Thai nationals.

According to Section 3 of the Act, surviving spouses are not liable for any inheritance tax. However, for ascendants or descendants the inheritance tax is 5% and for other heirs 10%. This low taxation shows the interest for a Thai, foreign or national owner to conclude a testament to determine the division of these goods in Thailand.

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