Anne-Lise Leo Regnier
12 February 2017
A French notary based in Bangkok for three years, Anne-Lise Leo Regnier works for the international law firm Vovan & Associes who assist individuals, companies and investors in Thailand in four areas: legal services, patent law, debt collection and notarial deeds.
Anne-Lise, what is your role in the Vovan firm?
I take care of everything related to family law. I have a lot of French clients, French speakers, or mixed French-Thai couples. Thai law is not so different from French law. It is based, as in France, on a civil code translated into English. I have the chance to work as part of a team of Thai lawyers, some of whom speak French and who have done some of their legal studies in France. When I started, they were there to explain to me the intricacies and subtleties of local Thai law.
What language(s) do you work with in a basic sense?
I write the deeds in French or in English. Then follows an obligatory translation with my colleagues. When the Thais write their own deeds without our collaboration, they do so in English or in French, depending on the wishes of customers. It is almost never done exclusively in Thai for a foreigner. For the purchase of an apartment, for example, it is the Thai documents that are authoritative, but the clients have signed a valid contract in French or in English. We take care of the needs of our clients while at the same time respecting the local legislation: we always keep the translation attached.
I have noticed that when we touch on the rights of the person, or his or her personal interests, we like to speak our own native language. We can express ourselves, speak about deep things, in French. We make a lot of appointments with clients where one of them is of Thai nationality and the other is French, so we speak to each other cross-culturally, two-by- two in our native languages. The conclusion is then done in English. It is obvious that we work in many areas in close collaboration with our Thai counterparts, and this is the strength of our firm.
With the restrictions in Thailand on practising certain professions, such as that of a lawyer, how do you handle the cases all the way to the end?
It all depends on what I treat as a case. I have many French clients. If I’m doing purely private international law, I can obviously answer our clients’ questions and follow the procedure to the end a number of times. The procedures can be fully negotiated in Thailand and then signed in France.
We handle a lot of divorces, divorces by mutual consent, for example. Those divorces that come under French procedure can be managed directly by the Bangkok office.
Are there a lot of divorces in Thailand?
Yes, the statistics are about the same as in France and we encounter a lot of them in the expatriate community. The mutual consent procedure has been simplified in France, and as it also exists in Thailand, attempts are made to more and more avoid judicial procedures in favour of mutual consent, wherever this is possible between the spouses. The statutory matrimonial regime in Thailand is similar to the one that exists in France and is that of the community of property. Then there are exceptions related to the fact that one cannot really own a property because of the law relating to land (jus soli). As in France, one can easily provide a separation of property marriage contract into which the future spouses can insert clauses drawn up by themselves. On the other hand, Thai law does not offer as many choices regarding the type of marriage contracts as there are in France.
Do you also work a lot on acquisitions of property?
Yes, but this is not my speciality. We at Vovan have a department specialised in real estate and land transactions. My expertise intervenes only after the acquisition. We advise, for example, all our clients who buy property here to make their wills. The procedure for the opening of succession in Thailand is different from the one in France. It is obligatory to appoint an executor. When a death occurs, one doesn’t allocate property just like that. A judicial procedure must be instigated, and thanks to the will, it is possible to appoint an executor who will have all the powers given by the judge. He or she can then share out the property according to the provisions of the will. So I intervene after the acquisition.
Are there any other specific issues?
In the case, for example, in which one of the spouses decides to return to their country of origin while the other wishes to remain in Thailand, the problem arises of the custody
of the children. When one is in France, one can always manage to find a good compromise. Here, there is the problem of geographical location. Everything is a question of negotiation and we always act in the best interests of the parties. As a general rule, we try our best so that the one who travels the most can have some time with his or her children and in return, the one who keeps the children has sufficient income to be able to live in the host country or in his or her country of origin.
On a different note, Thailand is one of the deadliest countries in the world in terms of road accidents. Unfortunately, the question sometimes arises of the future of underage children if their parents, both of whom are French, die in the same accident. In such a dramatic case, the families or relatives will contact the French embassy. I think, however, that it is necessary to draft in advance a deed designating a permanent or temporary guardian. This document, which I store at the firm’s office, makes it easier for the families or relatives to take charge of the children and to plan their return to France.
What advice would you give to people who want to come to live in Thailand?
We recommend our clients to provide us with an overview during the early stage of a planned move, both from a personal as well as from a financial point of view. We are often contacted following a purchase and/or a wedding.
In Thailand, one does not necessarily buy in one’s own name, for example. I prefer to protect my clients in advance, and it is possible to do so. It is harder to fix situations in which people are poorly protected. We obviously assist our clients afterwards as well, but we cannot create a posteriori protections that have not been implemented in a timely manner. “Prevention is better than cure”!