Property Rights Protection
Since foreigners cannot buy or own land in Thailand except in exceptional circumstances, property rights protection is needed when buying property in the name of your Thai wife. There are a number of options to cover your rights and you will need to speak to a property lawyer in Thailand to see what would be best for you.
Since you cannot own land in Thailand as a foreigner generally speaking you can however own the house but not the land on which it stands. The land will be registered in the name of your Thai wife but the buildings on the land will be long to you. This is a good way to protect your investment in the event of a divorce or the death of your wife. If you have the house and land in your wife’s name and she dies, then there will be bigger problems as the property would need to be sold within a specified period of time as you cannot own the land. Your wife could have a last will and testament and leave it to your children but if you have none then you will have to solve this by selling the property. Note also that you can place the superficies in your will unlike a usufruct that dies with you. The superficies can be for 30 years or until such time that you die.
The usufruct is another method to protect your property investment while in Thailand. The usufruct allows you to make use of the land and to benefit from the land. As an example you take a usufruct over the house and land you bought in your Thai wife name. This would be over a period of 30 years. Should you get divorced you will still have the right to live in the house. This is normally used as a negotiating tool during a divorce so that the property can be sold as nobody would buy property with a usufruct registered over it. If you are looking long term as a couple and you are going to rent land, then the usufruct can be in both your names. Should you or your Thai wife die then the usufruct will still continue for the full 30 years until it expires or both of you die. Unlike Superficies the usufruct cannot be inherited.
This is the most common form of property protection. If you are married with a prenuptial agreement, then at divorce each party will know what they are entitled too. If you are an American, then you will note that US prenuptial agreements are specific to each State in America. British prenuptial agreements and Australian prenuptial agreements do not have this type of issue. You should always speak to a family lawyer in Thailand about these options. Even though you might decide to live in Thailand you could very well move back to your home country in the years ahead. It is always good to have a prenuptial already signed by the time you leave Thailand.