Legal Heir

Who decides an heir in case of sudden demise? What is a legal heir certificate? This article answers your questions

The past year showed very uncertain times, it reminded us that human life is fragile and we never know what will happen, therefore it is better to plan in advanced in order to make sure that your loved ones are protected. Today in this article we will discuss legal heir and what is the rule of inheritance is if there is a sudden demise without a will in place.

A legal heir is any person male or female who is entitled to the property of the deceased. There are two ways through which a legal heir is decided. Through Will or through the law of succession.

As per the Indian Law, no asset can exist without an ownership status, therefore if a person dies without stating a Will for his assets, laws of succession will come into play.

Will: If the deceased, before his death has made a legal declaration stating the intention to whom the ownership right of the legally owned property will pass onto is stated as will. A will is a legal document and the person named in the Will receives the estate of the deceased.

Succession: If the deceased has died intestate, that is without making a will in such a case the property will be inherited as per the laws of succession.

Legal heirs are classified into four segments:

  • Class I heirs
  • Class II Heirs
  • Agnates (These are relations through males but not by blood or adoption, these are the relations through marriages)
  • Cognates (These are relations through females)

There is equality amongst the Class 1 heirs, in the absence of class 1, the assets are distributed amongst class 2 heirs. In the case of no class 2 heirs, the distribution is amongst Agnates and then cognates. If there is no one to claim the property or assets the property is passed onto the government of India.

They can be spouses, children (son/daughter), parents, or siblings of the deceased. They can also include relatives if the class I heirs are absent.

For instance, as per the Hindu succession law, if the deceased is a Hindu male without a Will. The property is passed onto class I heirs (the widow, children, and mother) in equal share. That is if the deceased has the following members in the family.

The property or the assets will be equally distributed, that is 1/4th part will be given to each member and if the class I heirs are not present the property is passed on to class II heirs (father, brother, sister, grandchildren, great-grandchildren).

The laws of succession are different for Hindu males and Hindu females. As succession is governed by personal laws, different laws are applied as follows:

  • The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (Applicable to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs)
  • Indian Succession Act, 1925 (Applicable to Christians, Jews, and Parsis)
  • Mohammedan Personal Laws (Governing inheritance of Muslims)

Although the laws of succession come into play in case of an intestate death, a legal document is required that can establish a relation between the person who is going to inherit the property and the deceased, it is called ‘legal heir certificate’

All eligible successors need to possess the certificate in order to lay claim or inherit the property/ assets of the deceased. Now here is why a Legal Heir Certificate is necessary.

One can lay claim on the assets of the deceased to receive benefits such as:

  • Pension
  • Provident Fund
  • Insurance Claims
  • Gratuity or other service benefits of the central or state government departments.

In this case, banks and private companies also accept such certificates to transfer shares, deposits, balances, investments, and other financial assets.

  • Transferring the property owners in the name of the legal heir.
  • For selling the inherited asset

The Legal heir certificate can be obtained from a local corporation or municipality in the case of towns or cities and in the case of small towns and villages it can be obtained from area/taluk Tehsildar. One can also get the certificate from the district civil court.

While applying for the certificate, the death certificate of the deceased needs to be submitted along with some other important documents such as:

  • Death Certificate of the deceased
  • Address and identity proof of the applicant
  • Application form
  • Residence proof of the deceased and other documents that state the relationship between the deceased and legal heir.

In case a person wants to claim legal ownership of an asset or property of the deceased it is crucial that the Legal heir certificate is obtained, with the appropriate documents.

The question of ownership arises when the deceased has gone without leaving a Will. Therefore, it is vital as a person moves ahead in life a Will is maintained so that the interest of the family members is protected, a Will also ensures that there is proper distribution of wealth and avoids family disputes, legal charges, and delays, and any unanticipated situations.

So, what is a succession certificate, many people get confused between legal and succession certificates? It is a point worth noting that they are not the same documents and serve very different purposes. A legal heir establishes a relation between the deceased and heir which is used for claiming benefits of the deceased. A succession certificate is issued by the civil court and follows a different procedure to obtain the same.