Inheritance of Foreign Assets in Pakistan

Heirs of the deceased can inherit his/her assets which are in a foreign state. There are very few cases which have appeared before the courts in Pakistan regarding inheritance of assets of the deceased in a foreign state. The concern which most people have is regarding the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts in a foreign territory.

The Law governing inheritance of properties of the deceased is The Succession Act of 1925. Section 5 of the Act states that: Law regulating succession to deceased person’s immoveable and moveable property, respectively. — (1) Succession to the immoveable property in Pakistan of a person deceased shall be regulated by the law of Pakistan, wherever such person may have had his domicile at the time of his death. (2) Succession to the moveable property of a person deceased is regulated by the law of the country in which such person had his domicile at the time of his death.

Therefore, the deceased who had his domicile in Pakistan their heirs can claim the deceased assets which are in foreign states. The word “domicile” has not been defined in the Succession Act. But according to Halsbury’s Laws of England (4th ed) Volume 8, Para 421 “domicile” has been defined as: “A person is domiciled in that country in which he either has or is deemed by law to have his permanent home” and according to Black’s Law Dictionary, “domicile” means The place at which a person has been physically present and that the person regards as home; as person’s true, fixed, principal, and permanent home, to which that person intends to return and remain even, though currently residing elsewhere. A person has a settled connection with his or her domicile for legal purposes, either because that place is home or because the law has so designated that place”.

Pakistani Courts in P L D 2015 Balochistan 132: Hifeeza & others versus General Public and in 1986 M L D 897 In Re: Saleem Lodhia  have interpreted the law regarding inheritance of assets in a foreign territory and allowed legal heirs of the deceased to claim his moveable assets which were in a foreign state.

However, the Succession Act of 1925 does not mention whether the Pakistani Courts have jurisdiction to grant letter of administration with regards to immoveable property in a foreign state of the deceased who has domicile in Pakistan. The courts of Pakistan can only take cognizance in relation to the immovable property situated in Pakistan subject to the limitations prescribed in the Code of Civil Procedure 1908.

Nonetheless, Pakistani Courts in the case of PLD 2019 Sindh 130: Letter of Administration of deceased Tahir Ahmed Khan allowed legal heirs of the deceased to inherit his immoveable properties in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates in the light of statutory provisions of the United Kingdom (the Pakistan Act, 1990) as well as SRO 208(1)/2007 dated 06.03.2007 (notifying arrangement for reciprocity, recognition and enforcement of judicial decisions with the United Arab Emirates); and the UAE Civil Procedure Code, Federal Law No. (11) of 1992 which states that proceedings in the nature of “succession” could be initiated in any one of the said jurisdictions where the properties were situated and orders of such proceedings could be enforceable in the other foreign jurisdictions.

Therefore, immoveable properties of the deceased in foreign states can also be claimed by their legal heirs if those states have a bilateral arrangement of enforceability of Judgments with Pakistan.