This week has been rough. First, my buddy with liver cancer, Frank, passed away. Next, the father of my best friend here in Thailand passed away, also from cancer. Now, I did not know his father, I only knew of him, but I know it has to be hard on my friend. Quite a bit of sadness this week. The older a person gets, the more it seems people drop off like flies.
Frank and I met approximately two years ago and over time I also got to know his family. He was a stand up guy and it will be hard to forget his rapid physical decline, how he looked when I said goodbye to him, and his eventual death.
He and I, along with one or two others, would often sit at Starbucks or McDonald several times a week discussing everything from politics to life in Thailand. The last time, he looked pretty good and for some reason, I thought he was going to be okay. The very next day he was back in the hospital, this time for the last time.
His impending death and death yesterday got me thinking, and our circle of friends thinking, about the importance of preparation. If you live in Thailand, or anywhere for that matter, you need to have your ducks in a row.
1. Unless you have a good reason for not letting them know where you are, register with the embassy. On the US Embassy website you can do this online.
2. Birth certificate of any children born in Thailand. Translate and make copies of it.
3. If you do have children, do make certain to get the Certificate of Birth Abroad
from your local embassy or consulate.
4. Make sure to get your children's passports and all the passports in your family are up-to-date.
5. Once you have your children's passports, get their social security cards. If you don't have yours, get it. If you pass away, social security survivor benefits for your wife or children can help alleviate some of the financial strain. Once you’re gone, you're gone and in most cases, it's too late.
6. Will or Living Trust - in addition to directing where the funds in your estate will go, a will or living trust can help tell those what you want done once you're gone. How do you want to be disposed of. Where will your body or ashes be left? Who gets your Mickey Mantle baseball card?
Make sure to have two wills: a Thai will that shows what is to be done with your Thai assets and a US will that dictates what happens with your US assets.
7. Keep the bulk of your money in a bank account in your home country. Unless you have a Thai will and it is set up properly, if you croak unexpectedly, you run the risk of forfeiting any funds you have in the bank to the Thai government. You can have two signatures on your accounts, but if the bank learns one person on the account has passed away, they may close the account and hold the funds until they are issued a directive.
8. In order to get funds from a bank after an expat passes away, a Thai lawyer needs to file a motion to have the will read in court. Once this is done, assuming the will in Thailand is not contested, then the judge will confirm the legal executor of the will. This document from the court and the death certificate can help expedite the process of closing the persons account and obtaining the funds left in it.
If there is no Thai will, this may or may not be a problem. But the lawyer can figure out if there is any course of action she can follow.
9. In some cases, a DNA test may be necessary in order to prove a child is actually American - or another nationality. A Thai DNA test will not suffice. The test kit needs to come from an embassy approved testing lab, the consular officer will then test the subject and send it back to the testing lab in the United States. If the parent is dead, this test is much more difficult and costly.
10, An expat should always have an exit plan. A plan B, and a plan C. Know your options and know where you’ll go.
11. Set money aside - just in case. Money talks. Cash speaks loudest. Cash in baht and in other easily converted currencies; dollars, pounds, Euro, Yen, AUD.
12. Have some form of ID with you at all times, or carry a copy of your passport with you and/or have two emergency contacts in your wallet at all times. Your passport should have an emergency contact in it, but having a second contact might be useful.
Anything can happen!
13. Make sure people in your home country know how to get in touch with you or someone close to you.
R.I.P. Frank Mandeville (September 10, 1967 - November 7, 2016)
***Update - while writing this post, we received new that my wife lost her brother. He lived with us for four years at the beginning of our marriage while he was going through college and he had a great relationship with our kids. To say the news is devastating is an understatement. The deaths this week have changed me and I am numb. So as important as the elections in the United States were, they pale in comparison to being alive.
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