Buying Chennai Properties


How to Establish the Legal Heirs of a Property Owner

Importance of Legal Heirship Certificate

It is necessary, for the prospective buyers as well as, loan sanctioning authorities, and all stake holders to know, who are all the Legal Heirs of a Property Owner, which they are dealing with. 

It is all the more so, when the Property Owner died intestate, or when the property was bought by the present owner from a seller who died intestate and so on..The Legal Heirs of a Property Owner can be ascertained from the Legal Heir Ship Certificate. It is an important document in determining the Flow of Title Deed.A Legal Heir Ship Certificate is issued by a Tahsildarafter a field inquiry by himself or through other functionaries.

This certificate is relied upon for the purpose of establishing the Title Deeds in Transfer of Properties. When there is more than one Legal Heir, all the legal heirs must execute any Deed of Conveyance. 

When There is a Dispute… 

However, there may arise occasions when new claimants emerge as Legal Heirs later in the day. In such situations, when there is a dispute, or when a more formal certificate is required, a person claiming to be the Legal Heir of a deceased, has the option to apply to a Competent Court for the issuance of a Succession Certificate.

This means, any person who believes that he too is a Legal Heir, will always be entitled to ignore such Legal Heirship Certificate issued by the Tahsildar and begin proper proceedings before a competent Court for settlement of the dispute. 

The Court, which is called upon to adjudicate in such proceedings, may disregard the Legal Heir Ship Certificate, and will decide the matter on the basis of evidence laid before it for issuance of Succession Certificate.
Claimants May Emerge Later in the Day

Many times, a  Legal Heir of a deceased may come to know of the existence of such a property only when the ‘talk’ for sale or re-modelling etc. of the property is being initiated by one or other of the Legal Heirs.The new claimants, may become aware of the property and their ‘right’ over it, only through some third party.

Mostly, the disputes may be raised by the offsprings of the ‘spouse’ who would not have been legally married. Or, it may be raised by the previous owner’s ‘legal heir’, from whom the present owner has purchased the property. In any case, the disputes should be dealt with at the earliest, and the buyer should make sure that the dispute is resolved satisfactorily, so that he is not legally entangled at a later date.

When There is a Will… 

If the deceased has left a Will, then, court rules for probating the will should be done, to find the legal heir.

Other Ways of Settling the Disputes… 

Irrespective of the above, the disputes between the various parties claiming to be heirs of the deceased,  may be resolved amicably by way of a Relinquishing Deed, a Settlement Deed etc. Needless to say that in all these cases, the Legal Heir Ship Certificate becomes superfluous. 

Conduct Field Inquiry 

Therefore, it must be stated that while a Legal Heir Ship certificate is normally relied upon to know the Legal Heirs of a deceased, the existence of any claims for the property may still remain. Therefore,  a buyer, who relies on a Legal Heir Ship Certificate for the purchase of a property, can do so, if he is reasonably certain that there are no disputes or claimants to the estate of the deceased.
The Village Administrative Officers (VAO) will be of much help in the inquiries, and can give  the necessary papers and information that are required for the buyer to arrive at a conclusion, of course for a ‘fee’. 

When Legal Opinion may not show the True Picture.. 

Most of the buyers collect all the documents, and hand over to their lawyer for Legal Opinion, and think that once the lawyer gives the opinion there ends the matter. It’s not so. The Legal Opinion is issued by the Lawyer, based on the available documents produced by the buyer only, and the Lawyer is not expected to undertake field inquiries before issuing the Legal Opinion. For issuance of the Legal Opinion, the Legal Heirship Certificate and the Encumbrance Certificate issued by the Registration Department, apart from the other documents, are relied upon by the Lawyers.

Limitations of an Encumbrance Certificate

It must be understood that any Litigation pending in a court, Oral Agreements, Acquisition notices etc., may not find an entry in the Encumbrance Certificate. This means, that even if the Legal Heir Ship Certificate and the Legal Opinion, are all portraying a clear picture of the ownership, the possibility of the existence of any dispute could not be ruled out completely.
Therefore, it must be clear that though the Legal Heirship Certificate ordinarily gives the basis for ascertaining the Legal Heirs of a deceased, due diligence by way of personal inquiry is a must in all property dealings, especially when one buys from a person who is recently introduced to him/her or when one has little knowledge about the property.

See also Things to Remember While Buying a Plot/Land

By John das

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