One of the most common problems in Thailand when an expat decides to live in Thailand is to usually liquidate his assets in his home country and to purchase property in Thailand. Knowing that a villa or house or for that matter land cannot be purchased in their name the expat usually opts to place the house or villa in the name of his wife.
There is the old adage, “love is blind and divorce is the eye opener”. Never a truer word spoken even in jest. What most expats don’t do is to consult an attorney before purchasing the property as they would have known to register a 30-year lease agreement for the land and house they bought in their Thai partners name. Leasehold and ownership is not the same. (See an explanation on Leasehold Rights .) If your leasehold is registered by the Thai Land Office in the event of a divorce the leasehold provides you with leverage as your right to live and use the land or house remains in tack. You can however use it as part of negotiations as after most divorces spouses normally don’t want to see each other again. Having a leasehold thus provides you with legal leverage during divorce negotiations.
The flip side of the leasehold however is that should your spouse die, the property will devolve amongst her heirs who may sell the property and even though you still have a right to live there, you might not like the new owners. You could of course push the matter even further before buying the property and signing a leasehold agreement by getting your wife to have a last will and testament drafted (Pinaikam) and appoint you as a legatee to bequeath or transfer the land and house to you after her death. That of course does not hold much water if she dies and she had decided to change her last will and testament before her death. Now, as the Land Code dictates that as a foreigner you cannot own land the ownership becomes somewhat messy.
Speak to an attorney before purchasing land, house or villa in the name of your spouse as it could become a headache alternatively you could very well lose your retirement nest egg. Yes, I know – it will never happen to you. That is what the last person said when he lost all his savings. Be wise and take legal advice.