India: How To Claim One's Rightful Share – Succession And Legal Heirship Certificate

Last Updated: 11 July 2017
Article by Divi Dutta and Anant Gupta
  1. Succession Certificate

The Indian Succession Act, 1925 defines a succession certificate as a certificate issued by a court to the legal heirs of a deceased to establish the authenticity of the heirs and give them the authority to inherit debts, securities and other assets of the deceased. The purpose of a succession certificate is limited in respect of debts and securities such as provident fund, insurance, deposits in banks, shares, or any other security of the central government or the state government to which the deceased was entitled. Its main objective is to facilitate collection of debts on succession and afford protection to the parties paying debts to the representatives of the deceased person.

A succession certificate may be used in situations where banks, financial and private institutions release funds to the nominee (where such nominee is not the legal beneficiary of the asset) and the nominee refuses to cooperate in distribution of the asset to the legal beneficiary. Similarly, a succession certificate may be useful to prove genuineness of the claimant where the inheritance amount is substantial. Additionally, in certain states, a probate (meaning a copy of the will, if it exists, authenticated by the Court) and a succession certificate are compulsory to transfer the title of an immovable property.

Procuring a Succession Certificate

A few important pointers for procuring a succession certificate are as follows:

  • The beneficiary/ legal heir is required to approach a competent court and file a petition for a succession certificate.
  • The District Judge within whose jurisdiction the deceased ordinarily resided at the time of his death, or, if at that time had no fixed place of residence, the District Judge, within whose jurisdiction any part of the property of the deceased may be found, may grant the succession certificate.
  • The petition should mention important details such as the name of petitioner, relationship with the deceased, names of all heirs of the deceased, time, date and place of death. Along with the petition, death certificate and any other document that the court may require should also be attached.
  • The court, after examining the petition, issues a notice to all concerned parties and also issues a notice in a newspaper and specifies a time frame (usually one and a half months) within which anyone who has objections may raise them. If no one contests the notice and the court is satisfied, it passes an order to issue a succession certificate to the petitioner.
  • If there is more than one petitioner, then the court may jointly grant them a certificate but it will not grant more than one certificate for a single asset.
  • When the District Judge grants a succession certificate, he shall specify the debts and securities set forth in the application for the certificate, and may thereby empower the person to whom the certificate is granted (i) to receive interest or dividends on the securities; or (ii) to negotiate or transfer the securities; or (iii) both to receive interest or dividends or negotiate or transfer the securities.
  • With respect to costs involved, the Court typically levies a fixed percentage of the value of the estate as its fees (which is more particularly prescribed under the Court-fees Act, 1870, (7 of 1870)). This fee is to be paid in the form of judicial stamp papers of the said amount. In addition to Court fees, the applicant will also be required to pay requisite fees to its lawyer.

Succession Certificate vis-a-vis Wills

In the event a person dies leaving a Will, a succession certificate may not be required for inheriting the assets of the deceased since the entire estate of the deceased shall vest on the executor of the Will for distribution as per the instructions set forth in the Will. Although Section 370 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, specifically provides that a succession certificate shall not be granted with respect to any debt or security in cases where a right to such property is required to be established by obtaining letters of administration or a probate, in certain states, a probate and a succession certificate are compulsory to transfer the title of an immovable property. It is to be further noted that in the absence of a Will, banks and financial institutions typically rely on the succession certificate and/or a legal heirship certificate.

  1. Legal Heirship Certificate

Purpose of a Legal Heirship Certificate

A number of other documents such as legal heirship certificate, nominations and death certificate may be procured, as an alternative to a succession certificate, for the purpose of establishing an inheritance or aiding in the transfer of assets from the deceased. It is comparatively easier to obtain these documents.

In some cases, a legal heirship certificate may be relied upon in the place of a succession certificate merely because family members are able to obtain a legal heirship certificate with much ease and speed. Therefore, families typically first apply for a legal heirship certificate and in the event a legal heirship certificate is not accepted by the relevant authority for any reason, then a succession certificate is applied for.

A legal heirship certificate establishes the relationship of the heirs to the deceased for claims relating to pension, provident fund, gratuity or other service benefits of central and state government departments, specifically when the deceased has not selected a nominee. Banks and private companies also accept such certificates for allowing transfer of deposits, balances, investments, shares, etc.

Procedure for procuring a Legal Heirship Certificate

While the Indian Succession Act, 1925 does not prescribe a method for obtaining a legal heirship certificate, it can be easily issued by revenue officers such as tahsildars, revenue mandal officers or talukdars, in every taluk. A legal heirship certificate can be issued and relied upon for certain limited purposes only. Legal heirship certificates are not conclusive when it comes to determining the legitimate class of heirs of a deceased person under the laws of succession or the title of heirs to any disputed property that belonged to the deceased. In case of any disputes between the heirs of the deceased, the revenue officer cannot issue a legal heirship certificate and is required to direct the heirs to approach a civil court for determination of the rightful heirs.

Legal Heirship Certificate vis-à-vis Succession Certificate

A legal heirship certificate is issued to identify the living heirs of a deceased person whereas succession certificate is issued to establish the authenticity of the heirs and give them the authority to inherit debts, securities and other assets that the deceased may have left behind.

Footnotes

1 Authors: Divi Dutta and Anant Gupta.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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