A legal heir is defined as an individual who is entitled to a share in the assets of a deceased person. These may include real estate properties, insurance amount, bank account holdings, stocks, bonds, shares etc. As per the inheritance laws of Pakistan, which are based on the Islamic Sharia law, the legal heirs of the deceased can only include the spouse, parents or children.
Feeta.pk has compiled the key highlights of the process, laws and rights of succession in Pakistan to help you navigate through what is otherwise a convoluted affair.
The purpose of a legal heir certificate
Once the death certificate of the deceased has been obtained, only the successors are eligible to apply for a legal heir certificate. The legal heir certificate is a document required for recognizing the legal heirs of a deceased person. It can be used for the following purposes:
- For claiming insurance
- For processing the family pension of the deceased employee
- To receive two such as provident fund, gratuity etc. from the government
- To receive salary arrears of the deceased
The purpose of a succession certificate and how to obtain it
On the other hand, a succession certificate is issued to transfer both movable and immovable properties of the deceased to his / her legal heirs. The letter of administration grants the right to administer the estate of a deceased person.
Any one of the legal heirs can apply for a succession certificate. The Succession Act 1925 governs all the procedures related to succession certificates in Pakistan. In case of multiple legal heirs, each party can apply for the succession certificate individually and the court can issue it to them according to their share in the property. Another alternative is that all legal heirs can file a joint application in favor of one legal heir who can distribute the property among other heirs afterward.
The Government of Pakistan also introduced a secure online portal in 2021 that provides letters of administration and succession certificates within 15 days, as opposed to the previous timeframe of 2-7 years. This was developed by the Succession Facilitation Units of the National Database Restoration Authority (NADRA) with the aim of removing any unnecessary delays and hassle during the process.
This is especially an advantage for overseas Pakistanis, who would not be required to make an appearance at courts anymore to receive the succession certificate.
The digital certificate has several security features, including a real-time verification facility. The process to obtain it can be completed in just a few, simple steps:
- Initiating the application:
The successor has to provide his / her national identity number and the death certificate of the deceased.
- Recognizing the legal heirs and assets:
The applicant has to give relevant details of the legal heir (s) along with information related to the deceased’s moveable and immovable properties.
- Verifying the legal heirs:
All the legal heirs mentioned in the application have to visit Nadra’s registration center for biometric verification.
NADRA will publish a notice in newspapers to ensure there is no one who has any objections against that particular application.
- Printing & delivery:
If no opposition comes forward within 14 days of publication, the letter of administration/succession certificate will be issued to the applicant.
It is important to note, however, that each province has its own conditions for which documents are necessary for initiating the succession certificate procedure.
Laws of inheritance in Pakistan
There are two laws that protect the rights of inheritance in Pakistan:
- The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance (1961), gives effect to certain recommendations of the commission on marriage and family laws.
- The West Pakistan Muslim Personal Law (1962), consolidates and amends the provisions of the application of Muslim Personal Law (Shariat).
A few additional things to note are:
- There is no inheritance tax in Pakistan.
- The last domicile of the deceased also dictates the division of inherited property.
- If the deceased gifted a property to another party in their lifetime, it cannot be contested in court after their death.
- Legal heirs can only distribute properties if the outstanding debts of the deceased have been settled.
- If a legal heir passes away before the distribution of inheritance, their share will be divided among the other heirs.
- It is highly advised to hire a lawyer for the distribution of inherited property.
Women’s rights of inheritance in Pakistan
There are many cases where female heirs, especially in Pakistan’s rural areas, lose out on their share of inheritance in favor of male family members. This is mostly due to their lack of awareness of women’s legal property rights. The Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Bill was passed in 2020 to ensure their rightful inheritance.
According to Section 498A of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act (2011), it has also been termed illegal to deprive women of their inheritance in any manner. Any violation of this act will be punished with imprisonment of 5-10 years or with a fine of Rs. 1 million or both.
The inheritance rights of women have been outlined below:
- The wife of the deceased will receive 1 / 8th of the inherited property if she has children. If she does not have any children, she will own 1 / 4th.
- The mother of the deceased will 1 / 6th of her son’s property. If the deceased had no parents or children though, the mother will receive 2 / 3rd.
- If a female has one or more brothers, she will receive half of their share after their father’s death.
These can still vary in cases of special circumstances.
For more details on property inheritance, visit Feeta blogs.