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Dead Persons: Legal Status

Legal status of dead persons refers to the legal rights, obligations, and responsibilities that may still exist after a person's death. While the deceased person themselves no longer have legal standing, their estate and certain legal matters surrounding their death continue to be addressed.

In the eyes of the law, individuals who have passed away no longer possess legal rights and cannot engage in lawsuits or be subject to lawsuits. Deceased individuals are no longer considered as persons under legal jurisdiction. The legal identity of an individual ceases to exist upon their demise. They do not retain ownership of their belongings until their heirs take possession of their inheritance. If a person passes away with a valid will, their property is distributed according to their wishes as expressed in the will. The law acknowledges and considers the desires and interests of an individual during their lifetime even after their death. Even after their death, the concerns of living individuals extend to three important aspects: their physical bodies, their reputations, and their possessions.

Generally, dead persons cannot exercise any right. All the rights in the world go off with their death. So, they are not legal persons. However, they are entitled to the following rights:
  1. A right for a decent burial/cremation. If any person hinders the taking away of the dead body to the burial/cremation ground, it is a punishable offence.
  2. Every person has a right to save his body from anatomical dissections.
  3. Dead persons have reputation. If anybody makes any defamatory Statement about a dead person, then he can be punished for defamation.
All the three instances appear to give some rights to dead persons, but they are not actually so. Rights are given not in the interest of the dead person, but only in the interest of the society and his (dead person's) relatives.

Defamation to a dead person is defamation to his/her relatives also. So, dead persons are not legal persons.

The legal status of deceased individuals is characterized by the cessation of their legal personality and the termination of rights and obligations that were applicable during their lifetime. Once a person passes away, they no longer have the capacity to engage in legal transactions, own property, or exercise civil rights. This fundamental change in status is a universal principle across legal systems.

When someone passes away, one of the main things that happens from a legal standpoint is the start of probate proceedings. This is done to handle the person's estate after their death. Probate includes verifying the person's will and choosing someone to be in charge of distributing their assets and dealing with any debts they may have had. This whole process is really important to make sure everything gets sorted out properly, like transferring property and taking care of any financial issues.

When a person passes away without leaving a valid will behind, the laws governing inheritance and succession step in to decide how their assets will be divided among their heirs. These legal principles guarantee a just and lawful distribution of the deceased person's estate, considering the familial connections and occasionally established regulations for instances where no will exist.

The person who has passed away is still legally represented by specific individuals, such as the executor mentioned in their will or a court-appointed administrator. These representatives carry out tasks on behalf of the deceased in legal affairs, like paying off debts, handling assets, and making sure the person's wishes from the will are carried out.

Even though the deceased person is no longer considered legally alive, there are still a number of legal matters and factors that continue to exist and require attention after their passing. These procedures, such as the official documentation of their death, the distribution of their assets, and the fulfilment of any outstanding legal responsibilities, are extremely important in guaranteeing an organized transfer of the deceased individual's affairs and safeguarding the rights of their loved ones and inheritors.

When an individual passes away, a profound transformation occurs - their estate comes into being. This encompassing entity covers the entirety of the deceased's possessions, belongings, and debts. Remarkably, this estate takes on a distinct legal persona, independent from its late owner. Subsequently, the executor or administrator shoulders the weighty duty of overseeing and dispensing these assets in accordance with either the explicit wishes expressed in the departed's will or, in cases devoid of such testamentary instructions, adhering to the established laws governing intestacy.

Even after a person has passed away, there are certain legal affairs that may still require attention. For instance, if the deceased individual had ongoing legal proceedings, these might need to be resolved through their estate. Likewise, in the event of unpaid debts by the deceased person, creditors can assert their rights by making claims against the estate to reclaim what is rightfully owed to them.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that the legal standing of an individual who has passed away holds significance in various domains including inheritance, taxation, and probate. The regulations surrounding inheritance dictate how the assets of the deceased are allocated amongst their rightful beneficiaries. Similarly, tax laws may necessitate the submission of a final tax return concerning the deceased's income and estate. Probate, on the other hand, constitutes the legal procedure by which a deceased person's will is authenticated and their estate is administered. This intricate process involves verifying the validity of the will, appointing an executor, and resolving any contentions or disputes pertaining to the estate.

In the Court's ruling of Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, it was established that Article 21 encompasses the right to Life, fair treatment, and dignity for both the living and deceased individuals. This principle was later reinforced in Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India, where the Supreme Court emphasized the importance of dignified burial/cremation for homeless deceased persons in accordance with their religious practices.

In India, cases of Necrophilia (sexual offences against dead bodies) are a worrying issue due to the lack of law in Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita (BNS) pertaining this topic and as result provisioning justice for a deceased person becomes impossible.

It is important to acknowledge that the legal standing of deceased individuals may differ based on the region and particular conditions. It is highly recommended to seek the guidance of legal professionals in order to grasp the precise laws and regulations that are relevant in a given scenario.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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