A succession certificate is a document issued by a civil court to the legal heirs of a deceased person certifying a rightful person to be the successor of such deceased person.
While we have discussed how a valid Will can be made and enforced, it is important to understand that the law also gives an option to seek a succession certificate for the estate of a deceased person.
A succession certificate is a document issued by a civil court to the legal heirs of a deceased person certifying a rightful person to be the successor of such deceased person. This certificate authorises the successor to realise the debts and securities of the deceased person. Its main objective is to facilitate the collection of debts on succession and offer protection to the parties paying debts to the representatives of the deceased person. This certificate cannot be obtained for the inheritance of immovable property.
A succession certificate can be obtained in cases where:
a. Probate or letters of administration are not required,
b. When deceased is a Christian,
c. Deceased is a Mohammaden,
d. When a deceased is a Hindu who has left a Will; however, the probate is not compulsory under the applicable law,
e. In case of a joint family property under Hindu Law.
Place and Procedure for Application
An application for grant of the succession certificate should be made before the district judge within whose jurisdiction the deceased person ordinarily resided at the time of his death or in case the deceased person had no fixed place of residence then this application can be made before the district judge within whose jurisdiction any part of the property of the deceased person is found.
A person of sound mind, not being a minor and having an interest in the estate of the deceased can make this application. The interest may be in the form of a widow of the deceased, a person having a beneficial interest in the debt of the security etc.
A succession certificate can be granted to a minor through a guardian.
The petition should contain the following details:
• Time of death of the deceased;
• Residence or details of properties of the deceased at the time of death within which Judge the jurisdiction falls under;
• Details of family or other near relatives;
• Rights of the petitioner;
• Absence of any impediment to the grant of a certificate;
• Copy of the death certificate
• Debts and securities in respect of which the certificate is applied for.
The court, after examining the petition, issues a notice to all concerned parties and specifies a time frame within which any person who has objections may raise them. If no one contests the notice and the court is satisfied, it passes an order to issue a succession certificate to the applicant.
If there is more than one petitioner, then the court may jointly grant them a certificate but it will not grant more than one certificate for a single asset.
When the district judge grants a succession certificate, he shall specify the debts and securities set forth in the application for the certificate, and may thereby empower the person to whom the certificate is granted (i) to receive interest or dividends on the securities; or (ii) to negotiate or transfer the securities; or (iii) both to receive interest or dividends or negotiate or transfer the securities.
The Court levies a percentage of the value of the estate as its fees (as prescribed under the Court-Fees Act, 1870) which has to be paid in the form of judicial stamp papers. This court fee may vary from State to State in India.
Effects of Succession Certificate
The holder of the certificate has the right to:
• Claim over the property and assets of the deceased person.
• Represent the deceased in collecting debts and securities due to the deceased or payable in his/her name.
• Inherit the debts and other liabilities of the deceased person.
Some general but important points to note on succession certificate
1. It can be granted even if there is a nomination in the accounts, insurance etc. as the nominee only acts as a trustee to the actual legal heirs of the deceased person.
2. It can also be revoked/cancelled under certain specific situations such as a fraud, defective proceedings, where the certificate becomes useless due to circumstances etc.
3. A legal heir certificate is not a substitution for the Succession Certificate.
4. It is not granted for immovable property.
5. It can be extended, amended in accordance with the applicable law.