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The legal devolution of succession is the set of rules imposed by law when the deceased did not choose his heirs during his lifetime, that is to say, he did not write a will nor make a donation. The law therefore designates legal heirs and distributes the property of the deceased between them and the surviving spouse, if there is.

We are talking about legal devolution of succession when the deceased has not made a will and it is the law that must designate the heirs. Legal devolution is governed by a set of rules to identify the beneficiaries of the inheritance, to prioritize them and to distribute the heritage in an equitable way. In opposition to legal devolution, we find the voluntary devolution. In this case, it is the deceased and not the law who defines the heirs in his will. If he drafts several wills and they are compatible with each other, all wishes are then respected. If some are incompatible, the last will prevails over the others.

Legal devolution meets the following principles:

  • The order of the heirs: legal heirs are classified according to 4 different orders to prioritize them and to be able to evaluate their share. You will find descendants, ascending and privileged collaterals, ordinary ascendants and ordinary collaterals. The existence of an heir in one order excludes the heirs of the next order.
  • The degree of relationship: each order is divided into degree that corresponds to the degree of relationship. In the descendants, the children are of the first degree and the grandchildren of the second. The heirs of the first degree always have priority over those of the second degree.
  • The representationChildren can inherit instead of their parents if they are dead. If the deceased X has a child Y who has died, it is the children of Y who will be the heirs.
  • The estate slotit allows equitable sharing of patrimony between paternal and maternal ascendants when the deceased leaves no spouse or descendants.

Existence of a spouse or not

Be aware that the order of the heirs differs somewhat depending on whether there is a surviving spouse or not. If the deceased leaves a surviving spouse, he / she will share the property with the offspring. If the deceased leaves no descendants, the spouse excludes the heirs of third and fourth orders (grandparents, great grandparents, uncles, aunts and first cousins).


Video Instruction: Hindu Law: Hindu Succession Act 1956 (with 2005 amendments)