Information from an RTI query has revealed that there is no record of a will being left behind by former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa.
In response to an RTI query filed by activist S Bhaskaran, the Commercial Taxes and Registration Department (CTRD) said that it did not have in its possession any such documents regarding Jayalalithaa's will.
The CTRD is in charge of recording wills.
"I am to inform that no details as requested in your petition cited is available in the Commercial Taxes and Registration Department, Secretariat, Chennai 9," Thiru C Kannan, Under Secretary to Government, Public Information Officer, wrote in his response.
Since the former AIADMK supremo’s demise on 5 December last year, there has been much speculation over who she has named her legal heir and who will inherit her properties including her Poes Garden residence.
Jayalaithaa has left behind assets worth Rs 113.72 crore. In a piece for The Hindu last year, Sanjay Vijayakumar wrote that no one in the AIADMK including the lawyers who handled her legal affairs were aware of any will she had made.
Veda Nilayam, Jayalalithaa's 24,000 sq ft bungalow in Chennai’s Poes Garden, is estimated to be worth Rs 90 crore.
It was in 1967 that Jayalalithaa, along with her mother Sandhya, bought the property for Rs 1.32 lakh.
There were also reports that suggested that Jayalalithaa's niece Deepa Jayakumar and her brother Deepak could stake claim to her property.
What Happens to a Person's Property In Absence of a Will?
If a person dies without making a will, the property will then be distributed according to succession laws of the religion that the person belonged to.
According to the Hindu Succession Act, the property of any woman dying intestate, i.e. without a will, can be devolved:
Firstly, to her children and husband, secondly to the heirs of the husband, thirdly to her mother and father, and lastly to the heirs of the father or mother.
If the deceased person has left behind a nominee, banks will release funds to him/her, Harshada Karnik explains in a detailed piece for LiveMint. However, a nominee is just a temporary guardian of the property till a legal heir or beneficiary is determined after which the property will be transferred to the latter. During this period, other legal heirs can stake claim to the property.
However, in the absence of a nominee, the person staking claim to the property will have to produce a succession certificate which will determine that he/she is the legal heir of the deceased and can inherit the assets.
The LiveMint report states that in the case of an immovable property, only the title of ownership has to be changed from the deceased to the legal heir.
However, with more than one legal heir, there are chances of dispute regarding how the property can be divided and beneficiaries can approach the court.