Usufruct and Divorce
Having a Usufruct and Divorce proceedings get complicated. Most expats and foreigners who visit Thailand tend to buy property. If you are going to buy a condo in Thailand then seek legal advice from a law firm in Thailand as the property laws in Thailand for someone who has not lived in Thailand may appear to be strange. Most foreigners tend to buy a condo as it is easier to buy as long as only 49% of the units are owned by foreigners. These property caps are in place to allow Thai nationals to also buy property without higher property prices due to speculation.
Many place their condo unit in the name of a Thai company in order to work around this issue however there are tax implications for this and you will need to seek legal advice about holding your condo in the name of a Thai company. You will also need advice on how to register a company in Thailand for this. Again seek legal advice from a law firm in Thailand as the tax implications would be that as a director of the company you live in a house owned by the company and the value of this occupation might be deemed as an income and thus taxable.
Some foreigners prefer to place the property in the name of their Thai wife however in a divorce this might have other issues. You can have a prenuptial agreement in Thailand or use one of the other options available to you. The first option is a usufruct. Foreigners cannot own land or a house in their name unless they invest millions in Thai government bonds and then obtain permission from the Minister of the Interior. This in itself is a costly process and you are limited to a small plot of land in your name. When you wife buys the land or house you will need to sign a document at the Land Office in Thailand which states that you have no claim over the property. You can however secure your stay with a usufruct which needs to be registered over the property which gives you the right to live in the house. In the event of a divorce you can still live in the house however most use this as leverage during the divorce to sell the property and divide the proceeds. Again, seek legal advice from a law firm in Thailand as there is also the options of a superficies. The superficies allows you to own the property but not the land. Search this website for more information on that.
The usufruct in Thailand is normally registered to a maximum period of 30 years however in the event that you should die before the 30 years lapse the usufruct usually comes to an end. If you are going to take a usufruct over the property that neither you nor your wife owns you might consider placing the usufruct in the name of both you and your wife. In the event of your death the usufruct is still valid for your wife. Note that when you have a usufruct over any real estate you are then also responsible to maintaining the property. If the property is not maintained and damages occur then the property owner can have the usufruct cancelled and file for damages.
There are many options in Thailand should you wish to protect your investment as the usufruct is one of these options. Always seek legal advice from a law firm in Thailand and assistance when dealing in property in Thailand as the market is not well regulated and often misunderstood.