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Legal heir certificate is a document which establishes a relationship between the deceased and his heirs for the purpose of inheritance or transfer of assets. It usually satisfies the claims of the beneficiaries of a serving or retired deceased employee. These claims can be a pension claim, insurance claims, retirement benefit claims, etc.
A legal heir certificate copy contains the following details :
Relationship with the deceased
Marital status of all surviving family members
As discussed, a legal heir certificate helps to identify the rightful heir who can claim the assets/properties of the deceased person. All eligible successors should possess this certificate to put their claim over the property of the deceased.
Legal heir certificate is required for the following purposes:
Transferring properties and assets
Receive dues such as provident fund, gratuity etc from the Government
Receive salary arrears of the deceased, state or central Government employee
To gain employment based on compassionate appointments
Generally, in cases where any property purchase or registration is involved, the buyer should request for a legal heir certificate in order to ascertain the ownership of the property. Where there is more than one legal heir of an ancestral property involved, then all legal heirs can sign on the deed of conveyance, giving their approval to avoid any litigation.
The following persons under the Indian Law are considered to be the legal heirs of a person, who can obtain a legal heir certificate in India:
Spouse of the deceased
Son of the deceased
Daughter of the deceased
Mother of the deceased and
Father of the deceased.
Heir means any person, male or female, who is entitled to succeed to the property of an intestate (person dying without declaring a will).
Here is an explanation of who a legal heir is along with their succession rights over the property.
The property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall firstly go to the heirs, being the relatives specified in class I of the Schedule of Hindu Succession Act. Here is the list of legal heir under the Hindu personal law.
Son of a predeceased son
Daughter of a predeceased son
Son of a predeceased daughter
Daughter of a predeceased daughter
Widow of a predeceased son
Son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
Widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son.
The inheritance of the property shall take simultaneously and to the exclusion of all other heirs.
In such situations, the legal heirs are listed in Class II of the Hindu Succession Act. If there is no heir of class I, then the property goes to the heirs mentioned under class II, which are:
Class II heirs:
Son’s daughter’s son
Son’s daughter’s daughter
Daughter’s son’s son
Daughter’s son’s daughter
Daughter’s daughter’s son
Daughter’s daughter’s daughter
The rule for succession followed in this case is that those in the first entry in class II are preferred over those in the second entry and those in the second entry shall be preferred to those in the third entry, and so on and shared equally among the sub-classes.
Under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the provisions related to the legal heir of a female Hindu dying intestate shall be in the following manner:
Firstly, upon the sons and daughters (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband
Secondly, upon the heirs of the husband,
Thirdly, upon the mother and father
Fourthly, upon the heirs of the father
Lastly, upon the heirs of the mother
Any property inherited by a female Hindu from her father or mother devolves, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) upon the heirs of the father.
Any property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or from her father-in-law devolves, in the absence of any son or daughter of the deceased (including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) upon the heirs of the husband.
A legal heir certificate is for a limited purpose only. It is not considered to be a conclusive proof for the purpose of determining the legitimate class of heirs of a deceased person under the laws of succession or the title of heirs to any disputed property, belonging to the deceased and in such cases succession certificate comes into play.
Also in the cases where the person dies without a valid will for the transactions of banks and financial institutions, court litigation etc, a Legal heir Certificate is not valid. Succession Certificate is issued by a civil court on the application in such cases.
Although Legal Heir Certificate and Succession Certificate are very similar, the following shows the difference between the two on various grounds which are as follows:
i) Who can obtain:
A legal heirship certificate is issued to the living heirs of a deceased person i.e. spouse, son, daughter, mother or father of the deceased; whereas a succession certificate is issued only to the legal heirs of the deceased to establish the title on the property and give them ownership rights to inherit the debts, securities and other assets of the deceased person.
ii) Issuing Authority:
The legal heir certificate can be issued by the Taluk/Tahsildar office or the Corporation/Municipality office of the respective area, or from the district civil court or panchayat; whereas a legal heir certificate is the preliminary step to obtain a succession certificate from court - Civil Court & High Court.
iii) Time taken:
Legal Heir Certificate: 15-30 days
Succession Certificate: 7-8 months
iv) Use of the document:
Legal Heir Certificate can be used for retirement benefit claims, gratuity and provident fund claims, insurance claims, pension claims, etc; whereas, succession certificate is used for transfer of property, realizing of securities, debt, paying debts or securities on behalf of the deceased.