How to identify a legal heir

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Legal heir

In this article, Anubhav Pandey discusses how to identify a legal heir.

In India, there are different personal laws and many statutes governing the issue of marriage, divorce, and succession. Over matters such as insurance, inheritance, identifying legal heir is important as they are the ultimate successor over the property under inheritance and also over insurance claims.

Under common law, an heir is an individual appointed by law to succeed to the estate of an ancestor who died without a will. The term legal heir is commonly used to refer to a person who succeeds to property, either by will or law. Who is a legal heir? How to identify a legitimate heir? A detailed article dealing with the issue.

Legal heir under Hindu personal law

Heir means any person, male or female, who is entitled to succeed to the property of an intestate (person dying without declaring a will).

For a male Hindu, here is an explanation of who is a legal heir 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,
  • Daughter,
  • Widow
  • Mother
  • Son of a pre-deceased son
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son
  • Son of a pre-deceased daughter
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased daughter
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son
  • Son of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son.

The inheritance of the property shall take simultaneously and to the exclusion of all other heirs.

Who are the legal heirs when there is no surviving heir from the list above

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, being the relatives specified in class II of the Schedule of Indian Succession Act. Heirs under class II are,

Class II:

I

  • Father.

II

  • Son’s daughter’s son,
  • son’s daughter’s daughter,
  • brother,
  • sister.

III.

  • Daughter’s son’s son,
  • daughter’s son’s daughter,
  • daughter’s daughter’s son,
  • daughter’s daughter’s daughter.

IV

  • Brother’s son,
  • sister’s son,
  • brother’s daughter,
  • sister’s daughter.

V.

  • Father’s father
  • father’s mother.
  • Father’s widow
  • brother’s widow.

VII

  • Father’s brother
  • father’s sister.

VIII.

  • Mother’s father
  • mother’s mother.

IX

  • Mother’s brother
  • mother’s sister.

The rule for succession is, those in the first entry in class II shall be preferred over those in the second entry, those in the second entry shall be preferred to those in the third entry, and so on in succession and shared equally among the sub-classes.

Legal heir of a female Hindu

Here is a list of legal heir of a female Hindu under the succession law. The property of a female Hindu dying intestate shall devolve,

  • 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; and
  • 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.

Legal heir of Muslims under the Sharia law in India

Under the Shariah law, the following is the list of the legal heir.

Husband   Must be legally married. Secret or undocumented marriages are not eligible.
Wives   Multiple wives are eligible. Secret or undocumented marriages are not eligible. A divorced wife is eligible if iddah period has not yet completed.
Sons   Adopted son, step-son, or illegitimate son is not eligible.
Daughters   Adopted daughter, step-daughter, or illegitimate daughter is not eligible.
Grandsons   Only son’s sons are eligible. Daughter’s sons are not eligible.
Granddaughters   Only son’s daughters are eligible. Daughter’s daughter’s are not eligible.
Father   Illegitimate father or step-father is not eligible.
Mother   Illegitimate mother or step-mother is not eligible.
Grandfather   Only father’s father is eligible. Mother’s father is not eligible.
Paternal Grandmother   Father’s mother is eligible.
Maternal Grandmother   Mother’s mother is eligible.
Full Brothers   Brothers who share the same father and the mother with the deceased.
Full Sisters   Sisters who share the same father and the mother with the deceased.
Paternal Brothers   Brothers who share the same father, but a different mother.
Paternal Sisters   Sisters who share the same father, but a different mother.
Maternal Brothers   Brothers who share the same mother, but a different father.
Maternal Sisters   Sisters who share the same mother, but a different father.
Full Nephews   Only brother’s son is eligible. Sister’s son is not eligible.
Paternal Nephews   Only paternal brother’s son is eligible. Paternal brother’s daughter is not eligible.
Full Nephew’s sons   Full brother’s son’s son.
Paternal Nephew’s sons   Paternal brother’s son’s son.
Full Paternal Uncles   Father’s full brother.
Paternal Paternal Uncles   Father’s paternal brother.
Full Cousins   Father’s full brother’s son.
Paternal Cousins   Father’s paternal brother’s son.
Full Cousin’s Sons   Father’s full brother’s son’s son.
Paternal Cousin’s Sons   Father’s paternal brother’s son’s son.
Full Cousin’s Grandsons   Father’s full brother’s son’s son’s son.
Paternal Cousin’s Grandsons   Father’s paternal brother’s son’s son’s son.

Legal heir under Christian personal law in India

According to section 32 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 the legal heir of a Christian are husband, wife or the kindred of the deceased.  

  • Widow
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Brother, Sister
  • Lineal consanguinity, that is relation which subsists between two persons, one of whom is descended in a direct line from the other, as between a man and his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and so upwards in the direct ascending line; or between a man and his son, grandson, great-grandson and so downwards in the descending line.
  • A, an intestate, left a great-grandfather, an uncle, and a nephew, but no relative standing in a nearer degree of kindred to him. All of these being in the third degree will take equal shares.

Legal heir under Parsi personal law

Under section 54 of the Indian Succession Act here is the list of legal heir under Parsi personal law.

  • Father and mother.
  • Brothers and sisters (other than half brothers and sisters) and lineal descendants of such of them as shall have predeceased the intestate.
  • Paternal and maternal grandparents.
  • Children of paternal and maternal grandparents and the lineal descendants of such of them as have predeceased the intestate.
  • Paternal and maternal grandparents’ parents.
  • Paternal and maternal grandparents’ parents’ children and the lineal descendants of such of them as have predeceased the intestate.

When a Parsi dies leaving neither lineal descendants nor a widow or widower then property passes to his or her next-of-kin. The legal heir in the following case are,

  • Father and mother.
  • Brothers and sisters (other than half brothers and sisters) lineal descendants of such of them as shall have predeceased the intestate.
  • Paternal and maternal grandparents.
  • Children of paternal and maternal grandparents and the lineal descendants of such of them as have predeceased the intestate.
  • Paternal and maternal grandparents’ parents.
  • Paternal and maternal [grandparents’ parents’ children] and the lineal descendants of such of them as have predeceased the intestate.
  • Half brothers and sisters and the lineal descendants of such of them as have predeceased the intestate.
  • Widows of brothers or half brothers and widowers of sisters or half sisters.
  • Paternal or maternal grandparents’ children’s widows or widowers.
  • Widows or widowers of deceased lineal descendants of the intestate who have not married again before death of the intestate

Is a child born in a live-in relationship, a legal heir

The Supreme Court in Vidyadhari v Sukhrana Bai passed a landmark judgment where the Court granted the right of inheritance to the children born from a live-in relationship and ascribed them with the status of “legal heirs.”

For more on Rights of Child born out of a live-in relationship, please visit https://blog.ipleaders.in/rights-child-born-live-relationship/

Legal heir succession certificate

For the transfer of bank account, gas connection, electricity connection, house tax, telephone connection it is important to obtain a legal heir certificate.

Who can apply

Wife or Husband or Son or Daughter or Mother may apply for legal heir succession certificate.

How to apply

Step 1 To apply for legal heir certificate under District Thasildar Officer through district court.

Step 2 Based on the report of the Village Administrative Officer and Revenue Inspector and after due inquiry, this certificate is issued by the Concerned Authority mentioning the names of all legal heirs of the deceased.

Step 3 Paper requirements are

  • Deceased name
  • Family member Names and Relationship
  • Applicant Signature
  • Date of Application
  • Residential Address

APPLICATION FOR LEGAL HEIR CERTIFICATE

To The Mandal Revenue Officer,

———————————— ——————District.

Sub:- Issue of Legal Heir certificate.

Respected Sir,

I R/o ————H.No.———————————————————————— I am Legal Heir of deceased person who is expired on —————————————- the following family members are legal heirs of Shri Late:————————————- —————————————————————. Sl.No. Name Relationship with Age Deceased person – — ———————— ——————————- ——————— ——————- —– ——————————– ——————————- ———————————- ——– I request your kind authorities to issue us legal heir certificate at an early date.

Thanking you,

Yours faithfully,

The following articles might be of your interest.

What are the Rules Governing Inheritance of Property under Muslim Law

What are the legal rights of a nominee?

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3 COMMENTS

  1. What hindu succession act defines is ‘heir’ and not ‘legal heir’.
    Can’t heir and legal heir be two different things?
    Where ‘heir’ is natural and legal heir is someone who came from the operation of law. Example:- a beneficiary from a will. He can’t be called an heir but Can’t he be called a legal heir?

  2. Aand B is father and mother C D E F is two sons and two daughter, now C daughter is expired in1965 and B mother is expired 1966,after 21 years 1987 father A is expired, now who will legal heir for A, please send me answer

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