Property rights in marriage are defined by the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand. Seek legal advice about property in marriage while in Thailand as the laws are in the Thai language. The property rights during marriage in Thailand have been explained below. See the note on usufructs in Thailand as well as superficies. Note that foreigners can hold the title deed to their property in Thailand if it is a condo and less than 49% of the units in the building are owned by foreigners.
It is well known that any land bought in Thailand being either a house, villa or such as land or a house cannot be held jointly by you and your Thai wife. Note again that land bought during marriage cannot be part of the marital assets (Sin Somros) but personal assets (Sin Suan Tua) as defined by Section 1471 and 1472 of the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand. This separation will occur at the Land Office in Thailand where the land will be registered in your wife’s name and then you will have to sign a document confirming that the land or property belongs to your Thai wife and is not a joint marital asset but a personal asset.
This give rise to a new problem in that your wife will have full management rights over the property and she can mortgage, sell or otherwise encumber the property. This is where the usufruct comes in and the reason why so many expats seek other options other than a prenuptial agreement to protect their assets in Thailand. This does create problems in the marriage especially where the property and it title deed gets used by your Thai wife for gambling debts for her or the in-laws. This is not uncommon in Thailand. Before you buy any property in Thailand is always best to speak to an attorney about the property options you have and how best to protect your rights. There are a few options such as a prenuptial agreement, usufruct registration or superficies which is also very popular amongst expats.
Property options that are useful during a divorce:
1. The land in in the name of your wife and the property on the land is in your name by way of a registered superficies over the property.
2. Register a usufruct over the property giving you the right to live in the property. This is useful to a certain extent as you can read on this website the shortfalls of the usufruct.
3. Speak to a lawyer in Thailand about a prenuptial agreement before you register your marriage in Thailand.
If you have questions about property in Thailand and how this would be affected in a divorce then always take sound legal advice from an attorney in Thailand. There are a number of options in Thailand to protect your property investments. Each has its own pro’s and con’s however the attorney will be able to show you where these shortfalls can occur.