Family & Inheritance
Family is a fundamental and main institution of society. Family law is a law that prescribes a relationship between people within the family or relatives. Family law is regarded as one of the laws which is mostly based on moral principles of society and tradition. Therefore, general principles of law may not apply to family law, such as engagement, marriage, treatment between husband and wife, guardianship, property between husband and wife, and principles of inheritance, etc. The inheritance law is a law which is related to property of a person after his/her death.
We, as lawyers, have experience in providing both legal counseling and family litigation and understand the role of lawyers in family relationships. Therefore, we are pleased to stand by our clients to help them find the best solution. If you have chosen to get engaged and registered your marriage under Thai law, you should follow the same rules by various principles of Thai law, regardless of your nationality. The law that are relevant to you are as follows:
Betrothal is a long upheld Thai tradition. It is considered as an agreement, that is, a male and female couple promise that they will stay together forever until the day they are ready to get married in the future. Although the law does not enforce betrothal as a condition of marriage, nowadays, young people who love each other prefer to organize a betrothal ceremony for people they love before they get married.
However, betrothal is different from the general agreement. That is, when a betrothal agreement is breached by one party refusing to marry, the other party will not be able to consider such a cause as a reason to sue in the court to force the defaulting party to marry. The non-defaulting party will be allowed to claim for compensation from the defaulting party.
When a betrothal takes place, the groom must give the bride property whether it be silver, gold or diamond ring, which is called the "Engagement Gift", otherwise such betrothal will be invalid. In addition, the groom may also give property to the bride's parents, which is called the "Dowry". If later, the bride refuses to marry, the dowry and the engagement gift must be returned to the groom.
Marriage refers to when a man and a woman voluntarily come to live together as husband and wife for the rest of their lives without being involved in adultery with any other person. According to Thai law, marriage must be registered to have legal consequences under Thai law.
Marriage can only occur when a man and a woman are not less than 17 years old. However, in case the court may permit them to marry before attaining such age in case of having appropriate reason. In the event that a man or a woman is an insane person or an adjudged incompetence or either a man or woman is in blood relation in the direct ascendant or descendant line, or brother or sister of full or half blood, or being the adoptive parents or having spouse at the time of marriage is prohibited from marriage, such man and woman cannot marry.
If it is a marriage outside the country between Thai couples or either party is Thai, such a man or woman must follow the form as prescribed by law of such foreign country.
Relationship between Husband and Wife
When marriage is registered, a man and a woman will have a status of husband and wife according to the law. This creates the legal rights and duties according to the law on a relationship between husband and wife as well. Those are, husband and wife must live together and must support each other according to their abilities and status.
In addition to such personal relationships, the law also prescribes on a property between husband and wife. It is separated into "Personal Property" and “Matrimonial Property" except that the husband and wife have made a special pre-nuptial agreement on property.
The "Personal Property" prescribed by law are (1) property that either party had before marriage (2) property for personal use, dress, ornament suitable for station in life, or tools necessary for carrying on the profession of either spouse or (3) property acquired by either party during marriage by inheritance or by voluntary gifts such party shall be manager.
The “Matrimonial Property" prescribed by law are (1) property acquired by the spouse during marriage, (2) property acquired by either party during marriage by will or by giving in writing, which must be specified as matrimonial property, and (3) property which is a capital gain of the personal property. Normally, either husband or wife have the power to manage matrimonial property unless it is a matter of handling important matters as required by law which husband and wife have to manage together.
However, in the event that it is unclear whether a property is considered as a personal property or a matrimonial property, it should be presumed as a matrimonial property.
Relationship between Parents and Child
In a registration of marriage, the man and woman are legitimate husband and wife, and a child born is also a legitimate child.
Legitimation of a Child
If parents are not married, a child born is considered as an illegitimate child. A child is always a legitimate child of a mother by law, but can only become be a legitimate child of a father when:
The parents’ marriage is registered later; or
A father registers the legitimation of a child; or
When the court orders
A relationship between a father or a mother and a child may arise in addition to the above cases. Adopting a child means registering a legitimation of a child of another person to bring up as his/her own child. As a result, the status of an adoptive child is the same as a legitimate child of an adopter such as having the right to use a family name and having the right to inherit from adoptive parents. In terms of adoptive parents, they will have parental power and will be responsible for providing care but will have no right to inherit from an adoptive child and will not be able to marry an adoptive child. However, birth parents of an adoptive child will lose their parental power but the adoptive child will not lose his/her rights and responsibilities in a family where he/she was born such as having to inherit from birth parents. Child adoption can be dissolved by registering termination of consent of adaptation of adoptive child who has become sui juris with adoptive parents when there is a marriage between an adoptive child and an adoptive parent.
Termination of Marriage
Marriage is terminated by death, or the court order to terminate a voidable marriage, or divorce. There are 2 types of divorce: (1.) uncontested divorce which must be made in writing and certified by signatures of at least two witnesses and a divorce need to be registered, and (2.) contested divorce or judicial divorce which is when either party files a divorce case based on the grounds action for divorce as prescribed by law.
Inheritance and Will
In addition to a relationship between people in a family mentioned above, if you have property in Thailand, we also provide services on management of your property after you have deceased, also known as "Inheritance", which can be divided into two cases: You do not specifically determine a management of inheritance, and you have specifically determined a management of inheritance, also known as "Will”.
“Inheritance” means all kinds of property of a deceased including the rights, duties and responsibilities such as rights under the sale and purchase agreement and the right of redemption, etc., which the deceased has at the time of death except for certain rights which are exclusive rights that will be ceased when a person has deceased which is not considered as inheritance.
In the event that, before or at the time of death, the deceased does not designate his/her heirs, an inheritance of that person will be distributed among legal heirs of the deceased: parents, child or close relative, in the order prescribed by law. In this case, it is called "Statutory heirs".
On the other hand, before or at the time of death, the deceased can designate his/her heirs by making a will as the deceased's order or intention to distribute his/her property or to take action in various matters after his/her death. The person designated to have the right to inherit according to the written order in the will. The heirs in this case are called “Legatees”.
The will must be made in writing. There are 5 types of wills as follows: (1.) simple will, (2.) holographic will, (3.) will made as a registered document by the local municipality, (4.) will made by a secret document, and (5.) verbal will. However, a testator must do it in the form as prescribed by law regardless of the types of will, but it can be canceled at any time and only comes into force when the testator has deceased.