There are two largely separate legal structures governing the inheritance by heirs to a deceased person’s estate in Lao PDR: inheritance by will and inheritance by law.
We set out the basic framework and considerations of each below.
Inheritance by will
Inheritance by will, for the purpose of the Lao law, means the acceptance of inheritance according to the intentions of a testator as expressed under a valid will.
A will must be either written by the testator themselves or, if it is written for them by a third party, must be signed by the testator and such signature witnessed by at least three witnesses. The writer, testator and witnesses shall all sign or provide a thumbprint on the will. Neither the writer, nor witnesses or their spouses, shall inherit property under the will.
A valid Lao will must be kept in a wax-sealed envelope and registered with the notary office closest to where the testator of the will resides. At the time of registration the notary office will also take a sealed copy of the will. While not required by law, in practice the notary office will request evidence of business assets such as shareholdings if those assets are subject to the will.
The notary official will not seal any evidence of business assets unless the testator wishes to notarize the will (they will seal the will only, not the evidence of business assets). However, if the testator registers his/her will in a wax-sealed envelope, the notary official shall provide a certificate stating that the testator has posted the will with the notary office.
A testator of a will has the right to alter or repeal and replace their will at any time by making a new will.
A will shall be considered invalid in the following cases:
- The testator of the will is under the age of maturity (18 years old) or has no capacity to act;
- The object of the will is unclear;
- The will is written under duress or deceit; or
- It provides a benefit to either the writer of the will or the witnesses or their spouses.
Inheritance by law
Inheritance by law will take place in the following cases:
- There is no will;
- The will is invalid or all the heir(s) to the will are deceased;
- All the heir(s) specified in the will refuse to accept the inheritance;
- A part of the estate remains undevolved according to the will.
The priority of distribution of a deceased’s estate via inheritance by law is set out carefully in the Inheritance Law 2008.
For example, in the event that a person dies leaving a spouse and children behind, the children have a right to inherit three quarters (3/4) of the initial assets of the deceased (assets owned solely by the deceased prior to marriage or acquired solely during marriage) and the remaining quarter allocated to the surviving spouse.
The matrimonial property (property gained and acquired by the married couple in the course of married life, except for assets of personal use with low value and assets subject to agreements such as a pre-nuptial agreement) shall be divided into two equal parts, one to be given to the surviving spouse and the other to be divided into equal portions amongst the children.
The surviving spouse is granted the right to administer assets devolved to children who have not reached the age of maturity.
Frameworks are also in place for other circumstances such as the deceased leaving behind only a spouse and relatives of direct lineage (e.g. grandchildren).
For estates left without heirs and upon which no legitimate claim is made within six months, the estate is taken by the State.
Non-Lao citizens have the right to pass on land use rights, such as a lease or concession, for the remainder of the period of the contract under which such rights are created.
For more information about wills and inheritance in Lao PDR please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Lochlan Reef MacNicol