What happens if I die in Thailand?
It’s a sad fact that at times people get sick or accidents happen that result in them passing away. If this happens to a foreigner who has been living or staying in Thailand for a while, they may have assets such as bank accounts, real estate and vehicles to deal with. This could be a daunting and scary proposition for the deceased’s family members as they may be unaware of what needs to be done or how this kind of thing is dealt with in Thailand.
This article will take a look at some of the more important matters that people should be aware of.
- If you have a valid Will, the process for distributing any assets to the heirs is much simpler than dying intestate (without a valid Will).
- If you do not have a Will registered in Thailand, you are advised to prepare one to facilitate the process and avoid any delays for your heirs.
- You can obtain a Death Certificate from the authorities. The Death Certificate will be written in Thai and available within 2 days of the death.
Will there be an Executor/ Administrator for the estate?
If the deceased had a valid Will which specifies one or more executors, then each named executor can apply to the Thai Court to be officially recognized as the Executor(s) of the Estate subject to the conditions in the Will and Thai law.
When applying at the Court, the appointed Executor(s)/ Administrator will need to provide evidence to prove they are who the deceased intended to appoint and confirm that they are willing to act in this role.
The following people are unable to be an Executor/Administrator of an estate:
- A person who is under 20 years of age;
- Persons of unsound mind or adjudged quasi incompetent;
- Persons adjudged bankrupt by the Court.
Please also note, that under Thai law a foreigner can be an Executor/ Administrator of an estate in Thailand.
If a nominated executor(s) cannot or is unwilling to act as the executor of the Estate then any ‘interested person’ can instead apply to the Thai Court to be appointed. If an Executor is against the appointment of an ‘interested person’, they can challenge their interest in the Thai Courts.
If the deceased died intestate (without a valid Will) and no executor has been appointed, any ‘interested person(s)’ can apply to be the Administrator(s) of the Estate. Again, any such application by an ‘interested person’ can be challenged in the Courts.
What is the role of the Executor/ Administrator of the Estate?
An Executor or Administrator of the Estate is tasked with the following duties:
- They must take proper steps to identify and notify any heirs or beneficiaries and notify them (within a reasonable time) of any dispositions;
They cannot, unless permitted by the will or the Court, enter into any juristic act (legal act) which results in a conflict of interest between them and the interests of the estate.
- They must act impartially when undertaking their duties unless he/she can act by an agent through express or implied authority under the will or by order of the Court or by requirement of the circumstances for the benefit of the estate.
- If there are several administrators of an estate, the duties shall be decided by a majority of votes unless otherwise an alternative solution is provided by the Will. In case of a tie, any interested person may apply for the Court to make the decision.
- The Administrator/ Executor of an estate must make a full inventory of all the Estate’s assets. For example, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, investments, as well as all debts. The inventory must be started within 15 days from:
- The date of death of the deceased if the administrator/executor knew of their role.
- The date when the administrator has knowledge of his/her appointment under the Will entrusted to him/her, or
- The date of his/her acceptance of administratorship.
The inventory of the estate must be finished within one month from the time mentioned above. This period can be extended upon application to the Court.
If no inventory is completed by the Administrator/ Executor by the set deadline or the inventory is found unsatisfactory by the Court due to gross negligence, dishonesty or obvious incapability of the Administrator/ Executor, then they may be discharged from their role.
Do I need a Death Certificate?
If your relative or acquaintance has unfortunately died in Thailand, then it is essential you obtain a death certificate. Death certificates are issued by the Thai Government and contain various details relating to the deceased including their full legal name, date of death, place of death, cause of death, nationality, marital status, age, sex.
The Death Certificate is very important and once you have received it, you should make backups and copies. If the deceased has assets outside of Thailand, then it is recommended to get a certified translation of this document prepared
It is also important to note that the death certificate may need to be submitted to the Thai Courts at a later date if certain issues arise.
How do I arrange a funeral for the deceased?
The Administrator/Executor of the Estate has the power and the duty to arrange the funeral, unless this duty was assigned to someone else in the Will.
If the Administrator/ Executor or person who has been specially appointed to arrange the funeral refuses, then the main beneficiary of the Will has the power and duty to arrange for the funeral of the deceased. However, it is possible for the Thai Court to appoint someone else if an interested person makes an application to the Court.
Did the deceased have a valid Will?
Establishing whether the deceased has a valid Will should be one of the first things that should be established. Please note that a valid Will must be made strictly in accordance with the rules established by law.
If the deceased was in possession of a valid Will, then it will need to be located and produced to establish if any Executor has been named and who the beneficiaries are. If the Will appoints an Executor and that person is prepared to undertake the role, then they can start to distribute the Estate’s property in Thailand to the heirs (subject to Thai law) immediately.
What if there is no Will or the Will is invalid?
If the deceased was not in possession of a valid Will then they are considered to have died ‘intestate’. If this is the case then Thai law shall be used for the distribution of the deceased’s estate. In Thailand the relevant Thai law is set out in the Civil & Commercial Code.
Thai law states that when a person dies intestate or their Will has been deemed invalid, then the entirety of their estate shall be distributed among the deceased’s statutory heirs according to law (using the statutory formula contained in the Civil & Commercial Code). Additionally, if a person makes a valid Will but this Will does not dispose of all of the entirety of their Estate, then the remaining portion of their estate shall be distributed amongst their statutory heirs.
It is highly recommended to prepare a legally valid Will. The service for preparing a simple Will usually starts from 15,000 THB. You can receive a quotation from our lawyers here.
Distribution of the Estate Property to Heirs/ Statutory Heirs?
If the deceased was married and has a surviving spouse then it is important to consider whether the deceased’s assets are their personal property or marriage property. This is important because only the personal property of the deceased can be distributed to the heirs.
Should the deceased pass away with any outstanding debts, the Administrator/ Executor is entitled to perform any necessary acts to satisfy the creditors (including applicable taxes). Once any debts have been satisfied, the Administrator/ Executor shall distribute the remaining assets accordingly to the heirs.
Time Period to Finish the Distribution of the Estate
The Administrator/ Executor must perform and complete their duties within 1 year from the death of the deceased. An extension may be granted by the courts.
The Belaws team experts are on hand to assist you with any queries you may have relating to Wills and passing away in Thailand. Our experts will help ensure that your Will is properly written in order to avoid facing any legal difficulties in the future.
To learn more about our Family Law services, please click here to book a consultation with one of our experts.
Please note that this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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