What are the initial legal steps a person should take when a family member dies in Thailand?
According to Thai law, all relatives of the deceased both within Thailand and abroad, should be contacted by the attorney involved in the probate case. However, this does not always occur in practice. Therefore it is important for a person who has a relative in Thailand who has passed away to immediately contact a qualified probate attorney in Thailand to file a probate case or intervene in a probate case that has already been filed. There is a very short statute of limitation in which to file an objection to an existing estate case. Therefore a relative who has not been included in an already filed probate case needs to issue an objection to existing proceedings or to file his or her own action for probate as soon as possible.
How can the existing estate of a Thai or foreign national that has passed away in Thailand be protected from having assets seized without due process of law?
In general a petition in probate needs to be filed as soon as possible and the institutions, banks, private and governmental agencies involved need to be notified that a probate action is pending and that all assets are protected until the conclusion of the probate proceedings.
What steps should foreigners living outside of Thailand take regarding existing estate cases?
A Thailand probate attorney needs to be instructed as soon as possible to investigate whether a probate case has been filed. If a probate case has already been filed, an objection needs to be lodged. Further the assets need to be investigated and determined. There is a risk that the assets will "disappear" if immediate action is not taken.
What if a foreigner dies in Thailand and leaves no will?
Relatives of a deceased person may have statutory rights to receive his or her assets pursuant to the Thai probate process even in the absence of a Last Will and Testament. However the degree to which they inherit or whether they have any right to inheritance under Thai law is dependent on the degree to which they are related to the deceased.