Some common questions about dying in Thailand.
How does anyone know?
Nearly all deaths occur at home, in a hospital or in a roadside accident. In all cases, the police will be notified by witnesses. They will in turn likely inform your embassy. But a friend or relative is well advised to make contact as soon as possible. Embassies need to know who the next of kin is.
Is an autopsy automatic?
It is a police discretion, but autopsies are necessary unless the dead person died in hospital after a documented illness. Most autopsies are performed at the police hospital in Bangkok. They are not necessarily detailed procedures and it is open to close relatives to organize and pay for a second one.
What do embassies do?
They can contact next of kin in the home country and provide information sheets on funeral directors and lawyers, if required. They issue a letter of release to the next of kin or the executor of the will so that the body can be hygienically disposed of.
What are the options?
Most foreigners are cremated in Thai temples, but transport back to the home country can be arranged. It is very difficult to arrange a traditional burial in Thailand. The cost of a Thai cremation can range from 20,000 baht to well over 100,000 baht depending on location and requirements. Repatriation of the lead-lined coffin back to Europe can cost several thousand US dollars or equivalent.
What if there’s a will?
A Thai will must be submitted to the court for a judge to issue the necessary probate authorization. This is the first stage in disposing of the assets of the deceased. If there is a separate will drawn up in the home country, the authorities there will need to see the Thai will and probate. This is to ensure the two wills do not contradict each other.
What if there’s no will?
A Thai court has the power to dispose of the assets of the deceased. For example, a Thai wife with a marriage certificate will be in a strong position. But it is not a good idea to die intestate as the proceedings can be expensive and open to challenge. The same thing applies to wills in the home country. Legal fees can be enormous.
What happens to the deceased’s passport?
Some embassies want it returned and others are unconcerned. The passport will have been cancelled anyway. It is a courtesy to visit the local immigration office but not essential.
Can a Thai widow obtain a pension?
The situation on state pensions varies country by country. For example, the British pensions authority gives no financial support of any kind unless the Thai widow has worked in UK and has a national insurance number. But the widow may be able to claim a benefit from her husband’s private or occupational pension. This depends on the policy document.
What are the most common problems?
Dying intestate or with a poorly drawn-up will is the main issue. Whilst you are still well, it’s best to seek the services of a recommended lawyer here who can draw up the document in both Thai and in the first language. Costs vary according to how complicated the text is. Budget between 10,000 and 20,000 baht.
What happens if nobody claims the body?
Thai authorities will eventually cremate the body, perhaps collectively with others in the same position, or hand it over to a charitable organization such as Sawangboriboon. Sometimes unclaimed bodies are buried in designated cemetery areas which are cleared every few years and the bones cremated.