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Tips for NRIs to transfer title of inherited property

Tips for NRIs to transfer title of inherited property

Dealing in Indian real estate matters, especially if you have lived outside the country for a long time can be a nightmare. Ask Dr Vinny Sastri, an entrepreneur based in Albany, New York.

Dr Sastri, a US citizen, inherited a residential apartment in Chennai from his uncle (father's brother) in 1999. But the process to transfer the title to his name was anything but smooth.

"My uncle was very good at documentation and legal paperwork. He left a Will spelling out clearly the distribution of his assets. So the title in itself was not disputed.

However, unfortunately, one piece of paper that we didn't find in his records was the 'khata' or 'patta' record of property in municipal records, and that single missing document was enough to make us run pillar to post," he says.

"The process of transferring title in India can be quite cumbersome especially if the paperwork is not in order as it will involve several court matters," explains P Sunder, Managing Director of yourmaninindia.com, a TTK Services company that provides legal services for Non Resident Indians (NRIs.)

"A lot of times there is no Will making the title itself disputable. When there is a Will, the related property documents may not be in place.

Indian sensitivity prevents the heirs from asking for estate documents before the death of parents or other bequethers. As a result, the heirs end up running around quite a bit to complete the inheritance process," Sunder adds.

In Dr Sastri's case it took close to 5 years for the entire transfer process to be completed. "The 'khata,' it turns out, is a very important document in the title transfer process.

Since I did not have the 'khata' I had to first get a duplicate copy. There were several challenges. Firstly, I had lived outside the country for many years and did not know the systems and processes.

Secondly, I did not have much time to devote to this. Every year I could take just a couple of weeks of vacation to travel to India.

And finally, it took me some time to accept the bureaucracy and I had to learn to not hang on to high morals. Kickbacks are a regular feature and I realized that the sooner I could accept it, the faster my work would get done," he says.

For those of you in a similar situation, here are some answers to frequently asked questions on this issue:

What are the documents needed to transfer title of inherited property?

1) A registered Will: As per legal requirement, a Will is not required to be registered. It can just be written on a plain piece of paper.

However, registration makes it a valid document that can be presented in the court. "We recommend that the Will is registered. One can always keep revising a registered Will," Sunder explains.

2) A succession certificate: In the absence of a Will, the heirs would need to obtain a Succession certificatefrom the court.

"The heirs will have to submit various documents such as death certificate of the deceased, the birth certificate of the heirs, copy of the ration card, bank statement of the heirs etc. These documents are needed to prove that the heirs are indeed the rightful successors," Sunder says.

3) Original purchase deed of property and registration documents: In case of old properties, the original purchase deed may not be available.

In such cases, you would need to procure certified copies of the title deed from the jurisdictional registrar's office.

4) Encumbrance certificate: The Encumbrance Certificate records and reflects all the transactions occurred in respect of an immovable property be it a sale, lease, mortgage, gift, partition, release, etc.

5) Khata: Khata is a record that shows the entry of the property owners details in the records of the Corporation/Municipality.

It contains details such as name of property owner, type of property, property taxes paid/ payable etc. It is basically an evidence of who owns and possesses the property concerned.

How is Khata different from the property registration?

The registration document shows the purchase or sale of the property from one owner to another with various rights thereon, whereas the Khata shows the annual property taxes paid.

Ideally, when registration of a property changes, automatically the Khata should also be changed in the municipal records. Unfortunately, that automatic process does not happen and Khata must be transferred separately.

What is the process for effecting transfer of title?

"Transfer of title can be done through mutation of revenue records/ transfer of Khata," Sunder explains.

Mutation of revenue records means updating the details of new owner of the property in the books of the respective development authority, that is, either the municipal corporation or the village panchayat.

In order to do this, you must submit all the documents mentioned above to the authority.

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