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Prakash Narrain (Professional)     13 September 2010

Intestate Inheritance Concerning Foreign Heirs

I am dealing with a very complicated case concerning intestate inheritance of foreign heirs.

A Christian gentleman who was an Indian citizen residing in Delhi expired in 1998 without a will, leaving behind some fixed deposits in three government banks and a property in Gurgaon (Haryana).

He was survived by his wife, a British lady, as well as two sons, who were minors at the time of his death. The sons were born in India and were Indian citizens by birth but are now British citizens after relocating to UK with their mother following the death of their father.

Following the father's death, the mother did not pursue his inheritance but now the older son, who has obtained a NRI status (British citizen with Person of Indian Origin Card), has returned to India on business and wishes to obtain the inheritance on behalf of all the heirs. His younger brother and mother have consented for him to act on their behalf as they are not present in India and there is no dispute among the heirs, each of whom have 1/3 share according to the Succession Act as applicable to Christians. However, only the older son (who has returned to India) has NRI status; the younger son and mother are fully British Citizens with no rights before Indian law.

I have two questions:

1) Regarding Fixed Deposits: The son who is in India has in his possession the father's death certificate and all pass books and deposit slips. The banks are asking either for a succession certificate or for indemnity bonds with sureties to be furnished. However, they have indicated that the citizenship of the claimants and the presence of some of the parties overseas will complicate the matter, since the documents must be notarized in the presence of an Indian official. The younger son and mother are British citizens and cannot sign in UK because this is outside Indian jurisdiction. How to proceed?

2) Regarding the Property: The sale deed has been lost and the original tenants have been living in the property since 1998 (the son has verified this indirectly but has not approached the tenants themselves because he does not have the original documents in hand). The property developer company has requested an indemnity bond before property details such as vasika number can be supplied to the claimant who would then need to check records at the sub registrar office and obtain a certified true copy of the deed. Again, the problem of the claimants citizenship and overseas presence presents a problem. NRIs are legally entitled to inherit property but the law does not appear to specify what should be done when some heirs are not Indian citizens or NRIs (as is the case with the mother and younger son).

In both these cases what advice would you give. The younger son and mother in UK are happy for the older son who is in India to deal with the matter on their behalf, so there is no dispute among the heir themselves, but the banks and maybe also the courts are unclear in their policy.

Many thanks in advance,



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