Legal Heir Certificate – Overview & How to Obtain it?

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What is a Legal Heir Certificate?

The Legal Heir Certificate is a government-issued document that certifies that the person is the legal owner of the asset or property in the case of the death of the registered owner. This certificate verifies the relationship with the deceased and can be used to claim insurance, pension, retirement benefits from Central and State Government departments, etc.
The legal heir certificate usually specifies the name, age, relationship with the deceased, and all surviving family member’s marital status. To obtain a legal heir certificate, a death certificate showing proof of death is essential. The death certificate is issued by the competent authorities where the death occurred, such as Major Panchayat/Municipality/Corporation/RO of Mandal.

The purpose of such a certificate is only to provide formal recognition to the heirs. An individual may obtain an heirship certificate in the following situations:

  • If he/she so desires.
  • Where his right as an heir is disputed.
  • In order to give confidence to the persons in possession of or indebted to the estate and to deal with them.

Thus, the grant of heirship certificate is solely for the convenience of the heirs.

Who are Legal Heirs?

Many personal laws and statutes govern the grounds of marriage, divorce, and succession as per the individual’s religion. According to common law, an heir refers to the person appointed by law and succeeds the ancestor’s estate who died without a will. The term legal heir refers to an individual who inherits property, either by will or by the law.
Each personal law has different classes of heirs. But only the following persons can apply for a legal heir certificate.

  • Spouse of the deceased
  • Son of the deceased
  • Daughter of the deceased
  • Mother of the deceased
  • Father of the deceased.

Benefits of Legal Heir Certificate

Legal heir certificate is a required document for the following purpose:

    • To get the properties and assets from the deceased to his heir, the heir must have the legal heir certificate.
    • It will also help you get employment-based on a compassionate appointment.
    • The legal heir certificate is a reliable proof of the heirship to receive state or central government employee’s outstanding wages/salaries.
    • The legal heir certificate is a necessary document for collecting provident funds, gratuity, and other government funds.
    • The legal heir certificate is needed to claim the insurance.
    • The legal heir certificate can also be used to sanction and process the family pension of a deceased employee.
    • The certificate can also be needed for transferring names of Electricity connection, Patta transfer, Telephone connection, Bank Account Transfer, Filing of IT Returns, etc.
    • In the case of any property purchase or registration, the buyer should request a legal heir certificate to determine its ownership. If multiple legal heirs of an ancestral property are involved, all the legal heirs can sign the conveyance deed and express their consent to avoid litigation.

Documents Required for a Legal Heir Certificate

The states regulate the rules of the legal heir certificate, and each state has its own procedure. While making the application, one should have at least the following documents:

  • Identity Proof of Applicant
  • Residence proofs of all Legal Heir
  • Date of Birth proofs of all Legal Heir
  • Death Certificate of the deceased employee in the original
  • Death Certificate of the deceased direct legal heir in original (if required)
  • Residence Certificate of the deceased
  • Self-undertaking/affidavit.

What is a Succession Certificate?

The Succession Certificate is a document under the Indian Succession Act that gives the person authorized to represent the deceased to collect debts and securities due to him or payable in his name. The pre-requisites for the issuance of this certificate is that the deceased person died without leaving a will. It is also a primary document through which the heirs can stake a claim to the assets of a deceased relative.

Difference between Legal Heir Certificate & Succession Certificate/Nominee

  • The main point of distinction between Legal Heir certificate and succession certificate is that the former is issued by a government authority, via the revenue department. In contrast, a court of law grants the latter.
  • A legal heir certificate is issued to distinguish the living beneficiaries of the deceased. The succession certificate is issued to establish the beneficiaries’ credibility and give them the right to obtain the deceased’s debts, assets, and other resources.
  • For a legal heir certificate, the person who can apply for the certificate is the deceased’s son/daughter, spouse, or parents. In applying for a succession certificate, only the legal heir of the deceased can apply.
  • For the legal heir certificate application and procedures, no one is allowed to contest, but for the inheritance certificate, anyone can contest for this application within 45 days from the date of submission of the application
  • It takes 15-30 days for the relevant authorities to issue a Legal Heir Certificate, while it takes 45 days-7 months of the issuance of a succession certificate. An objection that is filed within 45 days of applying, is heard in the court.
  • The purpose of the Legal Heir Certificate is for identifying heirs and getting the relevant pension, insurance, retirement pension or tax benefits; whereas Succession Certificate is issued to identify and establish the rightful legal heirs in property transfer matters or for paying & receiving debts on the behalf of the deceased person.

How to apply for legal heir certificate in India

Though there isn’t any time limit on applying for a Legal Heir Certificate. But one should be careful to apply within six months from the date of death of the deceased. However, these cannot be the reasons cited for rejection by the revenue department.

  • There is no necessity to apply by going to the office. Rather one can apply for the legal heir certificate online by logging in to the E-district portal. The online application is completed when all the above-mentioned documents are uploaded.
  • As per the Amendment of 2005 made in the Succession Act, the Daughters, whether married or not, will enjoy rights equal to that of the son and can be a legal heir.
  • The processing time for the legal heir certificate is usually 15 days to one month. In case the officer does not reply, one can contact the RDO or the sub-collector of the area.
  • Notably, there are no fees charged in this process other than the stamp fee (mentioned above); which is exempted if the person belongs to the SC/ST category.

Conclusion – Closing remarks on Legal Heir

One should note that according to Indian Succession laws, the legal heir certificate is not a fairly certain piece of evidence, but it is important to claim the assets of the deceased holder.
If the dead individual did not have a valid will against the bank and financial institution transactions, court proceedings, etc., the legal heir certificate is invalid.


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