Opinion on the benefits of 'permanent' residency in Thailand for foreigners
In Thailand they have something called a tabian baan or “house registration”. It is a little blue book that is produced by the local district office for each house that identifies the house and lists its residents. Foreigners don’t usually get their names listed in the house registration. In fact, most foreigners think they can’t, and many district offices around the country also think it can’t be done. But that’s wrong. A foreigner can have a house registration. It just requires jumping through some hoops, as well as having a local district office that correctly knows the law.
A marriage in Thailand will have legal consequences for you and your spouse such as the obligation of maintenance towards each other, legal relationship with children born and will also have consequences for property you own. Under Thai matrimonial property law all assets acquired during the marriage (with a few exceptions) becomes jointly owned property between husband and wife and when the marriage ends in the event of death or divorce all jointly owned ('matrimonial') property must under Thai law be divided in equal shares (section 1533). Personal property (property you owned before the marriage) remains under Thai law automatically exclusive ownership of each spouse and the other spouse cannot make claims to personal property of the other spouse during marriage or in the event of death or divorce.
Under Thai marriage laws any agreement between husband and wife entered into during the marriage can be voided by either of them at any time during the marriage or within one year from the final divorce. For this reason only a prenuptial agreement between husband and wife is under Thai law a valid contract if made pre-marriage and registered in the marriage register at the time of marriage, but it is a void contract if made post-nuptial (section 1466).
As it is prohibited for foreign nationals to own land in Thailand it has long been illegal for a Thai national married to a foreigner to acquire land because through matrimonial property laws the foreign spouse would obtain foreign ownership in land as property of husband and wife. It is only since a Ministry of Interior regulation dated March 23 1999 that it is allowed for a Thai national married to a foreigner to purchase land but the land must become a non-marital or separate personal property of the Thai spouse.
When you registered a property (land and house) in Thailand on your Thai spouse's name during your marriage you may have thought about a personal protection in the form of a usufruct to protect your interest in case of divorce or in the event your Thai spouse would predecease you. However, you may not be familiar with the right of usufruct in Thailand as it is a typical Civil Law property right and you may also not be aware what your rights and obligations under a right of usufruct are.
THAI MARRIAGE LAWS specify that property belonging to either spouse before the marriage and khongman (section 1437) remains personal property during the marriage, and each spouse shall remain the sole manager of his or her personal property (Section 1473).
A foreigner married to a Thai national is under the Civil and Commercial Code a statutory heir of the Thai spouse (Inheritance Laws CCC ). The Land Code Act also that a foreign national can inherit land as a statutory heir with permission of the Minister of Interior. The Thailand Land Code Act also states that it is prohibited for foreigners to own land, except if there is a treaty allowing a foreigner to own land. How does this in practice work?
Foreigners can't own land in Thailand, but the Land Registry allows a Thai national married to a foreigner to own land after a joint statement together with his or her foreign spouse or proof that the money expended on the land/ real estate is personal property of the Thai spouse (read up on the procedure). This effectively means that the land (and in practice often land and house and in some cases condominium) is purchased as a personal property of the Thai spouse and not a marital and jointly owned property between husband and wife (Sin Somros). The foreign spouse has therefore no claim to the property and the Thai spouse has the right to sell, mortgage, transfer or exchange the property without consent of the foreign spouse.
Foreigners can but do not have to make a separate Last Will for Thailand as foreign wills are enforceable in Thailand. Unless the foreigner is a resident or has his/her habitual residence in Thailand, owns real estate or is married to a Thai national there is no specific need for foreigners to make a separate Last Will and Testament for assets in Thailand or a Thai Will with the same content as a the Last Will made by the foreigner in his home country.
DIVORCE IN THAILAND means the dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court on one of the 12 grounds for divorce as listed in Section 1516 of the Civil and Commercial Code or by the Amphur (local municipality office) in Thailand upon a joint request and mutual consent by husband and wife. The Amphur or Amphoe is the district government administrative office (in Bangkok these offices are also called ‘Khet’). The district offices are responsible for marriage registrations and have the authority to again dissolve a marriage in case of a divorce on mutual consent.