In the absence of a will, if there is no survivor amongst the account holders
and a no nomination had been done by the holder(s) earlier, a Succession Certificate is the primary document through which the heirs can stake a claim to the assets of a deceased relative. A succession certificate, under the Indian Succession Act, is a document that gives authority to the person who obtains it, to represent the deceased for the purpose of collecting debts and securities due to him or payable in his name.
· It establishes the authenticity of the heirs and give them the authority to inherit debts, securities and other assets that the deceased may have left behind.
· Where the Application has to be made ? The beneficiary has to approach the district or the high court within whose jurisdiction, i.e legal territory, the assets fall (where the properties of your deceased relative are situated) and file a petition for a succession certificate. Both these courts have concurrent jurisdiction, i.e they are both at par. Depending on the value of the estate of the deceased, the matter shall go to the type of court, which can conduct cases for that value [This is known as “pecuniary jurisdiction” of the court]
· The petition should mention the relation of the petitioner with the deceased, details of other surviving legal heirs and beneficiaries, the time, date and place of death and also if he died intestate. You will also have to attach the death certificate and other documents that the court may require.
· The court, after examining the petition, issues a notice to all those concerned. It also issues a notice in a newspaper and specifies a time frame (usually one-and-a-half months) within which anyone 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 petitioner. 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. For this you have to then submit Judicial Stamp papers of sufficient amount (as per the prescribed court fees structure) in the court, where after the Certificate is typed by the court staff, duly signed and sealed and delivered.
· Apart from lawyer’s fees, courts levy a fixed percentage of the value of the estate as a fee which may be up to 3% of the value of assets.
· How long should it take to obtain the Succession certificate from the court ? If the petition is not contested then the court should roughly take about 3-4 months (sometimes even 5-7) from date of filing to receive your certificate.
· Once you have the certificate, you are authenticated to distribute the assets to the legal heirs as per the succession laws. Most people think that if the succession certificate is obtained then the person is the rightful owner of the deceased person’s properties, which is not true. A succession certificate allows the person to act exactly similar to how a nominee would act. It gives the authority to the holder for distributing the deceased person’s assets.
· A Succession Certificate is not granted in cases where obtaining a Probate of Letter of Administration is necessary such as when there is a valid will.