A Last Will and testament is a legal document where you express your decision as to who will inherit your wealth and what part of it will go to whom after you have deceased. If you do not draft up a Will, the law decides who gets what and the rules can be found in clause 1599 and following of the Commercial and Civil Code of Thailand (CCCT). A Last Will can save you lots of problems should you or someone closed to you die in Thailand.
In Thailand, the most prevalent form of last will and testament is a written document that is dated at the time it is created. The person making the will (the testator) must sign it in the presence of at least two witnesses. These witnesses are required to sign their names as well to confirm the testator’s signature, as stipulated by section 1656 of the Civil and Commercial Code. It is also the one that is the most suitable for expats as the document made by the amphur might not be translated.
Statory heirs under Thai Law.
No matter how little or how much property you may own, you want to be sure that it is distributed to the right people after your death. In Thailand as in most countries, “When a person dies, their Estate devolves on the heirs.” (Section 1599 of the Civil and Commercial Code, “CCC”) In Thailand, if a person dies without a Will, it is down to the state to decide who will benefit from the estate of the deceased. (Statutory heirs) (Section 1603 CCC).
There are six classes of statutory heirs in Thailand, each class is entitled to inherit in the following order: (section 1629 of the Civil and Commercial Code “CCC”)
- Brothers and Sisters of full blood
- Brothers and Sisters of half blood
- Grandfathers and Grandmothers
- Uncles and Aunts
The surviving spouse is also a statutory heir (Section 1635 CCC). It must be a legal and registered marriage.
A Last Will lets you choose your heirs (“legatees”) and clearly outlines your last wishes. It avoids family disputes. If you do not make a Will, the law in Thailand will instead determine who inherits your property. A proper drafted Last Will is a guarantee that your wishes will be respected. It will also make settling your succession that much easier.
Benefits of a Last Will Thailand
A Will can do many things for you: ·
- Gives you peace of mind and protection
- Divides the Estate (specifically) or gives all your assets to someone (general)
- Appoints Administrator of your Estate (Executors)
- Elects Guardians for underage Children (Section 1586 CCC)
- Makes gifts of money (pecuniary legacies) or items (chattels)
- Includes specific people (i.e. step children)
- Excludes specific people (i.e. spouse/partner, family members)
- Protects loved ones inheritance
Any capable person of 15 years-old and older, as mentionned in clause 25 of CCCT, can draft up a valid Will in Thailand.
Different forms of Wills in Thailand
There are several forms of Wills in Thailand and the choice is yours. For example Holograph Wills, Wills made in front of two witnesses and Wills made in front of a public authority.
The Holograph Will is the simpler form. It doesn’t cost a penny and it may contain simply a few sentences. It must be hand written, NOT typed (like a computer), dated and signed. You do not need witnesses. However these Wills are the easiest to contest.
A Will made before witnesses must be written by yourself or someone else. It may also be typed, but it must be signed in front of two adult capable persons and they must be aware that this constitutes your last Will and Testament. All three people, the testator and the 2 witnesses must sign the document. The writer of the Will must also be specified under Thai Law. Warning: Wills are subject to certain conditions that must be followed, and failure to respect these conditions the document may very well be declared void.
A Will made in front of a public authority is registered at the Amphur. It has certain advantages related to the authenticity of the document. This three types of Wills probably originates from the old Civil Law distinction between an authentic Act, a semi-authentic act and a non-authentic act. Therefore, it would be considered as the most difficult Will to contest. However, a Will made in front and signed by 2 witnesses is also difficult to contest if the Will follows the requirement of Thai Law.
Some prenuptial or marriage agreement may also include a clause in case of death. Wills can always be changed, at all times, which means that if such is your desire, you may draft up a new one.
SEVERAL GOOD REASONS FOR CHOOSING A LAWYER WITH EXPERiENCE TO MAKE A WILL
A Will is an important legal document; the settlement of your succession is based on it. Therefore, it is essential that a Will is clear, complete and free of ambiguity. In Thailand, you must be at least 15 years old to make a Will. (Clause 1703 CCC) Lawyers with experience might also know about estate planning and taxes. They will advise you of the best strategies specific for your case. A foreigner only having assets in Thailand is different from a businessman having assets in Thailand, Singapore and USA.
An experienced lawyer should know how important it is to choose the right words. It should explain clearly you last wishes in legal terms according to your instructions.
Another advantage to choose a law firm to make a Will is that they will keep an original in a safe place. You will have a copy and you can also give another copy to a person that you trust. The content will remain confidential until your death (unless you tell someone or there is a Court order to disclose it) and you can always change or modify your Will if you wish. Some law firms do have this service and some don’t.
Different countries, different laws.
All countries have different laws but Thailand does not have a “testamentary reserve”. This normally means that you MUST give a part of your estate to your legal spouse and children. In Thailand, as it does not apply, you can give your assets to anyone you wish.
Section 1667 states that “In the event of a Thai subject making his Will in a foreign territory, such will may be made either according to the form prescribed by the law of the country where it is made or according to the form prescribed by Thai law.”
A legal foreign will could be acceptable in Thai Courts. (See above about legalization in Thailand or here) A Thai Will should make it easier but it is not essential if your foreign Will follows the law of Thailand.
If you have assets in another country, the Will dealing with your foreign assets MUST normally be valid under the laws of the country in which you are domiciled. Domicile and Residence can have different meanings according to some jurisdictions. It is possible to be resident in one country and domiciled in another. If you were born in a foreign country, to change your domicile to Thai obviously involves you moving to Thailand.
If you are updating either of your Wills, be very careful that you don’t inadvertently revoke one of your other Wills that your might want to keep. Send an electronic translation of your Last Will to whoever holds your foreign Will and ask them to confirm that your old Will in your original country is still valid if this is what you wish.
Having Thai language is useful as we are in Thailand.
If you make a Will in Thailand, it should be in Thai language but it is not a requirement. A good law firm should be able to provide you a bilingual Will so that you can understand the content of it and won’t need a future translation. A translation Thai to English will cost you between around 500 baht per page. Some other languages could be more expensive (Scandinavian, Japanese, etc.).
Foreigners can’t normally own land in Thailand. If foreigner who acquires land by inheritance AS A STATUTORY HEIR, the ministry shall permit inheritance of the land to an alien. Foreigners have not less than 180 days or no more than one year to transfer the land to a Thai national. (See clauses 93 to 96 of the Land Code).
You may appoint a person or the administrator of your Estate to arrange your funerals. Every client is different: cremation? Buried?However, most do not to mention anything. (so the executor will decide)
Inheritance tax in Thailand
One other point to bear in mind is that your foreign Estate may be liable to Inheritance Tax in your country. Inheritance Tax do exists in Thailand since 1st February 2016. It applies only for estate that are more than 100 million baht according to section 12 of the Inheritance Tax Act:
And you can find the documents and regulation related to it at this link:
It is common in western countries to have a clause avoiding the transfer to an heir unless this person survives you by 30 days. That avoids double inheritance tax.
Different countries, different rules
Many rules in Thailand are not exactly the same as in your country. This is why you must be careful if you don’t want your will to be void. Do you know a witness to a Will can’t be a beneficiary? (Clause 1653 CCC) Do you know that the name of the writer of a Will (if it is not the testator) must sign his name and add the statement that he is the writer? (Clause 1671 CCC) Do you know that you can appoint a “controller of property” if you desire to dispose your property in favour of a minor, but if you don’t want the parents, guardians or custodians to manage this property? (Sections 1686 and following CCC).
A good lawyer can explain all of this to you and advise you what you can do or not do in this country. It is not inexpensive to make a Last Will. It will protect you and give you peace of mind. I heard that some Law firm in Bangkok charges more than 20,000 or even 30,000 baht for this service. We will do the same for less than 10,000 baht.
If you are ready to start this process with us, send an email to email@example.com. You will receive instructions automatically.
- Living Wills in Thailand
- Commercial and Civil Code – Book 6 (about succession)
- Make your “Last Will and Testament” in English and Thai, under Thai Law, for only 6,000 baht, all included.