Legal Heirship Certificate
Question: The Legal Heir Certificate is one of the important documents we rely upon when we purchase a property from a family who lost the property owner. What is the credibility of the Legal Heir Certificate issued? Is there any way to scrutinise the certificate to confirm that any person not in the list of Legal Heir Certificate will not claim the property and that the Legal Heir Certificate covers all the legal heirs?
N.G. Ramesh, Kodungaiyur
Mr. Srinath Sridevan replies:
A Legal Heirship Certificate is issued by a tahsildar. A tahsildar is an officer of the revenue branch of the State.
A tahsildar has no right to decide on disputed issues of title or succession. Prior to the issuance of the Legal Heirship Certificate, a summary enquiry is undertaken by the tahsildar, through his or her functionaries, to ascertain the legal heirs of the deceased, so far as may be possible.
A certificate is issued on the basis thereof.
This certificate is useful for certain very, very limited purposes, such as mutation of revenue records and the like. Certain public limited companies are also prepared to act upon this certificate, rather than put individuals through the grind of applying to the court for a formal certificate.
Wherever there is a dispute, or a more formal certificate is required, a person claiming rights under a deceased has the option to apply to the competent court for the issuance of a Succession Certificate.
If the deceased has left a will, then, certain other court procedures will come into play.
Irrespective of the above, if there are disputes between the various parties claiming to be heirs of the deceased, these may be resolved by the parties either amicably or through court. In all these cases, the Legal Heirship Certificate pales into insignificance.
To sum up and answer your queries:
A Legal Heirship Certificate assumes importance only in a scenario where there is absolutely no dispute regarding the persons entitled to succeed to the estate of a deceased person. It cannot be relied on to establish title of any kind. It is not final and binding. Any person who believes that he too is a legal heir, will always be entitled to ignore such Legal Heirship Certificate and institute appropriate proceedings before a competent court.
The court which is called upon to adjudicate in such proceedings will disregard the Legal Heirship Certificate and will decide the matter
on the basis of direct evidence laid before it.
A person who relies on a Legal Heirship Certificate can therefore do so if he is reasonably certain that there are no disputes between the parties who assert claims to the estate of the deceased.
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