As per the principles of common law, an heir is an individual appointed by law to succeed or inherit the self-acquired or separate property of an interstate (a person died without making a will) ancestor.
A legal heir is a person who represents the assets of the deceased. Upon obtaining the legal heir certificate, the person can file ITR on behalf of the deceased. In India, the following list of persons is declared as legal heir,
- Parents of the deceased person
- Spouse of the deceased person
- Siblings of the deceased person
- Issues of the deceased person.
Legal Heir of a Hindu male
The property of a male Hindu dying intestate shall devolve in his heir as per the provisions of Section 8 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
- Firstly, upon the heirs of relative specified as Class I heir of the schedule.
- Secondly, in the absence of any class I heir, the relatives specified under Class II of the schedule.
- Thirdly, in the absence of ay class II heir, then upon the agnates of the deceased
- Lastly, in the absence of any agnate, then upon the agnate of the deceased.
Legal Heir of a Female Hindu
Property of a Hindu Female dying intestate shall devolve as per the provisions embodied in section 15 & 16 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
- Firstly, it is devolved upon the sons and daughters and the husband. Here, sons and daughter include children of pre-deceased son and daughter.
- Secondly, upon the heirs of husband.
- Thirdly, upon the mother and father.
- Fourthly, upon the heirs of the father
- Lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.
The order of succession among the heirs referred in Section 15 shall be in the order specified in the section. In the absence of the heir specified in subsection 1, the heirs specified in sub-section two will succeed and similarly thereafter.
Read Also: Succession Rights of Daughter
However, notwithstanding anything contained in the provision as mentioned earlier the property which is inherited by the female Hindu from her natal family, in the absence of any heir referred in Section 15(1) shall revert to the heirs of father and mother.
And, any property inherited by a female Hindu from her husband or father-in-law shall in the absence of any heir referred in Section 15(1) shall devolve not in the order specified therein but upon the heirs of the husband.
Full blood vs. Half-blood
As per section 18 of Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Heirs related to an intestate by full blood shall be preferred to heirs related by half blood, if the nature of the relationship is the same in every other respect.
Right of Child In Womb
A child who is in the womb at the time of the death of the intestate, and who is subsequently born alive has the same right to inherit to the intestate as if he/she had been born before the death of the intestate.
Disqualification from succession despite being a legal heir
A person despite being a legal heir, if he is disqualified from succeeding the property, the property shall devolve as if such person had died before the intestate.
- If any heir who will succeed from the intestate in the capacity of being a widow of a predeceased son, Widow of a predeceased son and widow of the deceased brother, shall not be qualified to inherit the property if at the time when the succession opens is remarried.
- A person who has committed murder or abets the commission of murder shall be considered disqualified from inheriting the property of the person so murdered or any other property which he may inherit/ succeed after the death of the person so murdered.
- After the commencement of the act, any Hindu who ceases to be a Hindu by conversion to other religion, and the issues born to him after such conversion shall be considered disqualified from inheriting the property of any Hindu relative. The legal heir and his issues shall not be disqualified if at the time when the succession opens they are Hindu.
- A person is not considered to be disqualified from succeeding to any property, on the ground of any disease, defect or deformity, or any other ground which is not provided under Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
If all the legal heirs are disqualified
If an intestate is left with no qualified legal heir, competent to succeed to his property, in accordance with the provisions mentioned in Hindu Succession Act, 1956, in this case, the government shall seize the property subject to all the obligations and liabilities to which heir of the intestate would be subject to.
The child born in a live-in-relationship
The Supreme Court in Vidyadhari v Sukhrana Bai, passed a landmark judgment, where the court granted the rights of inheritance to the children born from a live-in relationship and granted them the status of Legal Heir.
Legal heir under Christian and Parsi personal law
According to Section 32 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the legal heir of the Christian are husband, wife or the kith of the deceased. Moreover, there is a list specified which explicitly mentions the relationship which falls in the purview of legal heir of a Christian deceased.
On similar lines, under section 54 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, there is a list specified which explicitly mentions the relationship which falls in the purview of legal heir of a Parsi deceased
Legal heir succession Certificate
For the formalities such as transfer of bank account, gas connection, electricity connection, house tax, telephone connection, it is important to obtain a legal heir certificate. Wife, husband, son, daughter, mother or anyone who is a legal heir to the deceased can apply for obtaining the legal heir succession certificate under District Thasildar Officer through the district court.
 Section 20, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
Section 27, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Section 24, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Section 25, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Section 26, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Section 28, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Section 29, Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
 Vidyadhari v Sukhrana Bai CASE NO: Appeal (civil) 575 of 2008.