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  • Writer's pictureSoubir Bose

Inheritance: Getting the basics right

Inheritance is not just about the money and property a loved one has left behind; it’s also their love, legacy and memories. And the latter is what probably makes it even more important. But having said that, inheritance is also, practically speaking, a complicated legal matter in the absence of a will, and in law, there’s no place for emotions. So, let’s address some of the most common questions – from the legal angle – associated with inheritance in the case of intestate death (without a will).

How soon can you claim inheritance?

In the event of a loved one’s death, you cannot claim any inheritance you cannot claim any inheritance without a Death Certificate. It is issued by the local authority (Municipal Corporation or Gram Panchayat) and should be applied within 21 days of the demise.

However, in the case of an intestate death, there are more legal hurdles. The heirs have to furnish a Succession Certificate – it’s issued by the local civil court, acknowledging a person(s) as the rightful inheritor(s) of the movable/immovable properties of the deceased. It could take between five-seven months for you to obtain this document. In short, inheritance becomes a long-drawn process in the absence of a will.

Who can make a claim?

In the event of an intestate death, the legal heirs of the deceased can claim inheritance. As per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956/2005, the legal heirs of a Hindu man have been divided into Class I and Class II. In the absence of heirs in both these classes, the inheritance rights go to agnates (relatives from the father’s side) of the deceased. If there are no agnates, the legacy can be claimed by cognates (relatives from the mother’s side).

On the other hand, in the case of a Hindu married woman dying intestate, her husband and children have equal rights over her property (parents are not eligible).

However, if there are no children, the property of a Hindu woman dying intestate will go back to its source, the Supreme Court has ruled. For example, if the property had come to her through her parents, it will be returned to them or, in their absence, their heirs. Similarly, if the property had come to her through her husband, the legacy would be returned to him or, in his absence, his legal heirs.

In case the deceased has left a will, there’s no confusion whatsoever. The inheritance can be claimed by the nominee mentioned in the will. This brings us to the next important question: What’s the difference between a nominee and an heir?

Nominee vs Heir

A nominee, as the term suggests, is someone who has been named in the will to handle the property. He/she is just a caretaker and has no right or ownership over the property. The testator can choose any nominee of his/her choice. A legal heir, on the other hand, is someone who is entitled to inherit the property after the owner’s death unless a will has been written bequeathing the property to someone else. Inheritance in India is governed by various personal laws, depending on a person’s religion.

Inheritance of minors

Parents can bequeath their self-acquired property they wish to anyone in their will. But, in case of an intestate death, as per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956/2005, children are Class I heirs. However, though they are the legal heirs, they have no legal authority over their inheritance till they turn 18 years old. In the case of minor children, the property will be managed by a legal guardian appointed by the court.

If the parents write a will, they can appoint a guardian of their choice for their minor wards. A beneficiary trust could also be set up for minor kids to secure their inheritance until they become adults.

As you can see, no matter what the scenario is, having a will makes inheritance a smoother, faster process. And, contrary to what people think, making a will is absolutely easy these days, especially with platforms like EasyInherit. Want to create an online portfolio of all your assets? Want to write a will? Seeking legal assistance from a team of specialist lawyers to help you out with claims submission? There’s a single, simple answer for all your questions – EasyInherit!

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