If you are looking long term at Thailand and are buying a house or villa in Thailand in the name of your Thai wife then you might consider registering a usufruct over the property in the event of a divorce. The usufruct will still allow you to live in the house and give you leverage during the divorce process. There are also a number of other uses which foreigners use the usufruct for.
As foreigners are not allowed to own land in Thailand outright you can make use of the land by means of a usufruct. This usufruct is still at the discretion of the Land Department in Thailand to allow the usufruct or not. The usufruct is for a period of 30 years and over the years we have noted that most usufructs we have registered in Thailand has been in Chiang Mai and Southern Thailand. Many foreigners who are married to a Thai do not wish to buy land but rather to make use of the land while in Thailand. They register a usufruct either over the property they bought in the name of their Thai wife or they make use of the land so they can develop a plantation of rubber trees or Palm Oil trees which their wife can manage.
When you obtain this usufruct you become responsible for the payment of taxes on the land and any other government duties on the land being developed. Note that a usufruct cannot be inherited and when you die the usufruct comes to an end. The usufruct is registered against the title deed of the property and when the land gets sold you usufruct is still valid even with a new owner holding the title deed of the land.
If you have a usufruct over the property you can also lease part of the land to another third party. This is allowed with the usufruct however you will still be held responsible for the land and if the owner wants to sue for damages you will be the one being sued by the land owner and not the person you have leased part of the land too. Note also that if you signed a 30 year lease with a third party this lease will remain if you die during the 30 year lease period. Thus even though the usufruct has now ended with your death the lease agreement you signed with a third party is still valid.
If you wish to know more about the usufruct then speak to one of our attorneys online or call our toll-free number for more information. You can also walk into any of our law offices in Thailand for legal assistance and guidance.