How to Establish the Legal Heirs of a Property Owner
Importance of Legal Heirship Certificate
Before proceeding to finalise a property deal, it’s essential to know who is all its Legal Heirs.
Situations when the necessity for determining who the Legal Heirs are are:
a)The present Owner would have bought this property from a Seller who died intestate
b) The Present Owner died intestate
and so on.
Legal Heirship Certificates will help find out who The Legal Heirs of a Property Owner are. It is an important document in determining the Flow of Title Deed. A Tahsildar issues the Legal Heir Ship Certificate. He conducts field inquiry by himself or through other functionaries.
This certificate is relied upon to establish the Title Deeds in Transfer of Properties. When there is more than one Legal Heir, all the legal heirs must execute the Deed of Conveyance.
When There is a Dispute...
Yet, there may arise occasions when new claimants emerge as Legal Heirs later in the day. In such situations, when there is a dispute, a Succession Certificate issued by a Competent Court will settle the matter.
This means that a person claiming to be the true Legal Heir has the option to approach a Court.
The Court, which is called upon to adjudicate in such proceedings, may disregard the Legal Heir Ship Certificate. It will decide the matter on the basis of evidence laid before it.
Claimants May Emerge Later in the Day
All the Legal Heirs of a deceased may not know the full details of his estate while he was alive.
Some may come to know of the existence of this or that property later. Only when the ‘talk’ for sale or re-modelling etc. of the property is being initiated by others he may know about it.
Offsprings born out of wedlock may raise the disputes. Previous owner’s ‘legal heirs’ also can raise the dispute.
In any case, the buyer/the present owner should deal with the dispute at the earliest. Ensure that he is not entangled at a later date.
When There is a Will...
If the deceased has left a Will, then, Legal Heirs should approach the Court for probating the will.
Other Ways of Settling the Disputes…
Irrespective of the above, there are other legal ways of resolving the disputes. Relinquishing Deed, a Settlement Deed etc. are some of them. Approach an Advocate for proper guidance in this.
Conduct Field Inquiry
To sum up, Legal Heirshiptificate gives a fair idea of the Legal Heirs of the deceased. Yet, the existence of more claims for the property may still remain.
A buyer may rely on a Legal Heirship Certificate, only if he is certain that there are no disputes or claimants to the estate of the deceased. He should conduct field inquiries to ensure no other claimants exist.
The Village Administrative Officers (VAO) will be of much help in the inquiries. He can give the required papers and information to enable 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. They think that once the lawyer gives the opinion there ends the matter. It’s not so.
The Lawyer issues the Legal Opinion based on the documents produced by the buyer only. He is not expected to undertake field inquiries before issuing the Legal Opinion. They rely on the Legal Heirship Certificate, Encumbrance Certificate, and other documents, for issuance of the Legal Opinion.
Limitations of an Encumbrance Certificate
An Encumbrance Certificate may not give any information about the following:
any Litigation pending in a court,
Acquisition notices etc.
This means, that the Legal Heir Ship Certificate and the Legal Opinion, may portray a clear picture of the ownership. But, the possibility of the existence of any dispute could not be ruled out completely.
Thus, it must be clear that though the Legal Heirship Certificate gives the basis for ascertaining the Legal Heirs of a deceased. Yet, due diligence by way of personal inquiry is a must in all property dealings. This is especially so when one buys from a person who is recently introduced to him/her, or when one has little knowledge about the property.