International Inheritance Laws

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Pakistan’s inheritance laws are governed by the Succession Act of 1925, which provides for 2 types of wills: Privileged and Unprivileged. Unprivileged Wills must be in writing, duly signed or marked by the testator or on their behalf by another in the testator’s presence.  Additionally, it is not mandatory for a will to be signed in the presence of witnesses, as testamentary capacity and the testator’s signature suffice. On the other hand, Privileged Wills must be wholly written by the testator in their own hand or at their request or it can be made by word of mouth with two witnesses in attendance. Due to Pakistan’s diverse religious composition Sharia or Islamic Law requires no written documents or forms to be procured in order for a will to be valid thus Privileged Wills in secular law corresponds with Islamic doctrine.

With this being said, attorneys may be hired to draft a will or the testator may do so on their own, provided they have attained the age of testamentary capacity which according to the Succession Act of 1925 § 89 is 18 years or older. The firm of Surridge and Beecheno established in 1948 handle a wide array for areas including estate planning and probate law. With its head office in the northern city of Karachi the firm’s website provides a wealth of information about their business and its history in Pakistan. They offer internships for law students giving those chosen hands on training and experience. They have also contributed to the publication, International Succession edited by Louis Garb and John Wood which discusses the inheritance laws of Pakistan.  As one of Pakistan’s largest firms, they represent clients such as AT&T, Merril Lynch, Microsoft, and MetLife. A full client list is provided on their website

In the state of New York distributees set to inherit under the laws of intestacy can be anyone deemed by the court to be eligible by relation to the decedent whereas intestacy laws in Pakistan only relate to Christian and Parsis groups. Additionally there are no inheritance taxes in Pakistan unlike New York where taxes and debts must be considered. Finally, New York establishes several categories of persons entitled to inherit intestate, which in many ways mirror Pakistani intestacy laws, for instance spouses are  afforded consideration along with the issue of the decedent. However, the method of distribution differs as widows are given a third of all property with the remaining two thirds being divided equally among the issue. In New York, the spouse of a decedent is entitled to the first $50,000 plus half of the estate. Finally, the categories of eligible persons from the decedent’s parents, to siblings, to grandparents and issue of their grandparents are  also considered in the division of assets using intestacy laws where the first category of spouse and issue are not alive or where the decedent has no spouse or issue.

Pakistan has had a long and rich history with many great civilizations rising and falling over the centuries  yet the remnants of these societies still remain. One such site is the Museum at Mohenjo Daro or “City of the Dead”, which houses several interesting artifacts and is the burial place of a long forgotten city. The “Dancing Girl” is one statue which drew my attention as her saucy countenance and matter of fact pose seems to indicate worldliness and intelligence. Originating in the Indus Valley this bronze statue is approximately 4,500 years old, and represents the power and beauty of youth. Although little is known about the statue and who it might be a representation of, the expression and beauty of this young woman lives on.


The Succession Act, No. XXXIX of 1925, PAK. CODE.

Garb, Louis. International Succession. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2004. Print.


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