Grapevine – August 14, 2020 – August 28, 2020


Thai Legal Questions

What is the process of probate in Thailand and can the will be challenged?

Assuming there is a valid will, a judge in the local Thai court will issue the order for the provisions to be carried out. In most cases, the process is straightforward although the judge may ask the executor or personal representative, who must appear in court, some questions dependent on the circumstances. For example, he might want to know if a family tree is available. A will can be challenged by relatives who believe they have been unfairly treated. The most common example is where a surviving Thai spouse has been denied inheritance rights.

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What is the situation where a foreigner wishes to leave his assets in Thailand to a same sex partner?

Thailand is currently changing the law to allow gay civil partnerships between Thais or where one partner is a foreigner. Once the law comes into effect, likely later this year, the surviving partner will have the same inheritance rights as in a traditional marriage. In the past, foreigners did often leave cash or assets to a Thai partner, usually without difficulty unless there were blood relatives to object. With the new legislation that situation is unlikely to occur unless there are unusual circumstances, for example the will maker turns out to have been a bigamist.

Is a will made in Thailand valid overseas?

Assuming there is a verified translation, if necessary, the answer is yes in most countries. For example, a deceased foreigner could order his or her house sold in Europe and the cash deposited in a Thai beneficiary’s Thai bank account. However, the process can be more complicated and expensive than if a separate will was made in the home country. Similarly, a will made in Europe can leave cash and assets to a Thai beneficiary, assuming all the documentation is in order.


What exactly constitutes “working” in Thailand for foreigners and where can we read up all the fine details?

Basically, foreigners are not allowed to work in Thailand without a work permit issued by the Department of Labour. The statutes are drawn very broadly so any paid or unpaid activity can be deemed to be illegal. A work permit can be issued by your employer or if you set up a company with at least four Thai employees. Normally a work permit requires a non-immigrant “B” visa, although not necessarily if the foreigner is married to a Thai. Even voluntary work can be considered against the law. Much fine detail is left unanswered. But that’s true of other areas of the law, for example the computer crimes act of 2006 is written in general and even vague terms.

But lots of foreigners seem to work without hindrance in gray areas don’t they?

Enforcement of the laws in this regard are mostly at the discretion of the immigration bureau. Thus foreigners working as translators in the Thai courts or helping out in police stations or helping to organize free food or funds during a health crisis are perceived as assisting the state, although they should carry an ID card from the appropriate authority. Embassy staff are excluded from the work permit regulations. People working at home from their computers are certainly a gray area with endless debate on social media. Normally, one-off performances at entertainment centres are ignored. It is a well-known fact that enforcement varies, for example rural areas are often less strict than urban.

What happens when you die and can you be buried in Thailand rather than cremated?

If we knew exactly what happens when you die, we’d be much wealthier than we are. On the mundane level your body will need to have an autopsy unless you died in hospital with a medical trail. In law, the police decide whether an autopsy is necessary but examinations are routine for all deaths unless caused by a recorded disease in a hospital. Most autopsies are performed in the Bangkok police hospital. Before the body can be moved, a letter of release must be issued by the appropriate embassy to the executor or next of kin. Cremation is the norm in Thailand and burial plots are both difficult to obtain and very expensive. If funds are available, the body can be transported overseas to the home country for hygienic disposal there.