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Who needs a last will and testament?

The short answer is “You do!”. So does your Thai loved one. Your family and loved ones back in your native country also need for you to have a Thai last will and testament – and one back there, as well.
Chances are if you’re living here (or contemplating living here) you’ll own a home (house or condo); a car or motorbike; very possibly a business; jewelry or other personal property; and money in a Thai bank. Those assets need to be protected for your beneficiaries, be it your family in your home country, or your Thai family or partner.
Because the laws and administrative procedures in Thailand are almost certainly different than they are in your native country, even if you have a last will and testament there you really need to carefully consider having one in Thailand, as well.

Can your Thai “wife” inherit your estate?
If you don’t have a last will and testament in place it will be an extremely difficult – and very likely futile - effort for your unmarried Thai partner to claim the right to your assets.
Basically, if you have a Thai partner with whom you are not married, and if you have not registered them in his/her name, then your partner has no claim over your assets whatsoever. Period. 
If you are married to a Thai national, then local inheritance laws will apply and s/he should be able to receive those assets you intend for them – if you have clearly stated those intentions in writing.
If you wish your overseas family to receive your assets but don’t have a Thai will, then your family or loved ones back there have the difficult and expensive task of coming to Thailand and pursuing a very complex process which involves, first, proving they are your next of kin. Then they have to employ a Thai lawyer to take on your case. Pursuing the case can be a lengthy process; it’s not unusual for the final decision to take 12-18 months.
In those 18 months there will be numerous visits to the courthouse, which will, of course, incur legal fees. Effectively, your assets will be frozen. If there is no resolution through the courts – and you’ve probably heard stories about cases that drag on forever - then your assets will remain frozen.
Does your Thai partner need his/her own Will?
Once again…”Yes!” Consider the other side of the coin. What if your Thai partner is the owner of your assets, e.g., home, car, motorbike, business, in their name. If you are married, presumably you are entitled to some share. But how much? How much to her children, or her parents, or brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, etc.? And what if you’re not married? Worst of all, what would happen if you’re not married and your Thai partner should die “intestate” (without a last will and testament)? 
First and in all likelihood, the Thai partner’s family would claim all the rights to all the assets of their deceased family member. Your difficult choice then would be to (a) fight your partner’s family in a court in their country, or (b) walk away and lose everything. Most likely you’d lose either way.
An hour or two spent listing your assets for your lawyer to use in preparing your Last Will & Testament is time well worth spending. Bring that list into our office and we’ll be happy to prepare a will for you.
Does a Will accomplish anything other than dividing assets?
Often when a foreigner dies in Thailand there can be a conflict between the family in their native country and their Thai partner, due to the Thai partner (and oftentimes the deceased) wanting a Buddhist cremation ceremony, while the original family wants the body sent to the home country for a Christian ceremony and burial there. This ends up involving embassies and lawyers and money and hard feelings all around, and is to be avoided at all costs, as you certainly wouldn’t want to put either family through such an ordeal. The ordeal can be avoided by the simple expedient of writing into your will your wishes for the disposition of your remains.
How unpleasant will the task of making a will be?
The entire process should be a fairly easy experience. The hardest part is acknowledging that nobody lives forever.  You start the process by consulting with an attorney of your choosing and asking them to craft your Last Will and Testament. The attorney will ask you to produce information on your assets, all your close family and dependents, and whom your intended beneficiaries will be.
The document should be written in both Thai and English (or in whatever the official language may be in your native country). The whole process, once your attorney has receive the necessary information from you, will probably be completed and registered in a week or two from start to finish.

Can you change your will after it’s written and registered?

You can change your will at any time with the assistance of counsel, two witnesses to the change involved, and your notarized signature. If you want changes to be made by an attorney other than the one who drafted the original document, be prepared to show lots and lots of documentation of your identity, but that’s for your own protection.

What if you already have a will in your native country?

Good, you’ll need that to protect and distribute your assets there according to your wishes. But a will in your native country will not be sufficient to protect your assets in Thailand. The laws and procedures here are different; there could certainly be issues of jurisdiction, and the time and expense of dueling lawyers in countries on opposite sides of the world strongly argue for the relatively simple solution of arranging a last will & testament in Thailand to protect your assets – and your loved ones - here.
A Last Will and Testament may be in any one of three forms, with varying degrees of safety from challenge. A fourth option also applies.

  1. First is what is known as a “holographic will” which means you wrote it out by hand. Holographic wills are legal, but very subject to attack.
  2. Second is a Will made with a lawyer. If competently drafted this option will be legal and resistant to attack.
  3. Third is a Public Will, which is the strongest Will available in Thailand. The form for this type of Will is in Thai and prepared by an attorney, and once filled out and registered cannot be attacked.
  4. The fourth is none: You die intestate and your property is distributed by the government according to certain rules.

Thai rules
It is worth remembering that there is no official second language in Thailand, so if there is a question between a stipulation in an English, German, Russian, etc., translation and that in a Thai version, the Thai version wins. Any language is accepted and “legal”, but if translated into Thai, the Thai version prevails. Bear in mind that only a will written in Thai is technically admissible in a Thai court, since most court personnel can’t read English or other languages than Thai. The English version, even if a certified translation, is primarily for your convenience and information.
Don’t forget that your Thai will should list all your assets in Thailand, including bank accounts (with branch address and account numbers); vehicles (if they’re in your own name) including registration number, chassis & engine numbers; condominiums and shares in companies owning property; jewelry and personal possessions. It saves squabbling if you specify who inherits each item, or the proceeds of liquidation of that asset
While you can include property and other assets in another country in a Will made in Thailand, and while this Will may be accepted in your own country, the safest method is to have a Will in each country covering your assets in each – and specifying that this Will covers only those assets held in, for instance, the United Kingdom. Another Will is similarly drawn up, specifying that this Will covers only those assets held in Thailand. A third may cover Australia – and so on. This may sound onerous, but is also sound tax planning.
It won’t take much time, or much money, to have our lawyers help you draft your Last Will & Testament. It likely will take a lot of time, and a lot of money, to sort out your estate if you pass on without having written one.

 
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