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Statutory Heirs and Class System in Inheritance Law

Statutory Heirs and Class System in Inheritance Law

15 Mart 2023

Inheritance law encompasses all the rules that regulate the fate of the transferable rights and obligations, as well as other legal relationships of a deceased person that do not terminate with their death. The individuals who have rights and responsibilities over the assets and liabilities left by the deceased are called heirs. Heirs are divided into two categories: statutory heirs and appointed heirs. Statutory heirs are individuals who are automatically entitled to a share of the inheritance under Turkish Civil Code. Appointed heirs, on the other hand, are individuals appointed by the deceased to inherit their assets. Both types of heirs are subject to the principle of universal succession and are personally and jointly liable for the inheritance. In this article, we will focus on who the statutory heirs are, the class system they are subject to, and the basic principles of the class system.


Natural heirs are those who are related to the deceased by blood. This includes surviving spouses and adopted children. The state is also granted secondary inheritance rights in this context.[1]

Statutory heirs are regulated by Articles 495 to 501 of the Turkish Civil Code. According to these articles, the parents, grandparents, descendants, and other blood relatives of the deceased are considered natural heirs. Surviving spouses, adopted children, and the state are considered other legal heirs. Illegitimate children who were born outside of marriage but have been recognized by the deceased or established through a court order are also considered heirs, just like legitimate children.[2]

The fact that children are from another marriage of the deceased is not important in determining the inheritance of the descendants. Therefore, a child who has one parent separated from the other or vice versa does not lose the right to inherit from the person they are descended from. On the other hand, in kinship inheritance, the basis of inheritance is having a blood relation with the deceased, so individuals who are not related to the deceased by blood cannot become heirs.[3] In other words, inheritance does not arise in a step-parenting situation. For example, two siblings whose parents are separated cannot inherit from each other unless the inheritance comes from their father. This means that when one of the siblings' mothers dies, the other sibling cannot inherit from the deceased mother. The fact that the common father has died before the step-siblings does not change this situation. The inheritance of blood relatives is determined according to the class system.


Class refers to the group of individuals who descend from a particular person.[4] In inheritance law, the starting point is the deceased and classes are determined starting from the deceased. There are three classes of heirs. The first class consists of the deceased's descendants, including both legitimate and illegitimate children and adopted children. The second class consists of the deceased's parents and their descendants, such as siblings, nieces, and nephews. The third class consists of the deceased's grandparents and their descendants, such as aunts, uncles, and cousins, without any limit to the lateral or downward extent of the family tree.


• To be an heir, it is necessary to belong to a class.

The great grandparents of the deceased, although they are blood relatives of the upper line of descent, cannot inherit because they are not subject to any class. By no means can in-laws be legal heirs.

• Also, being an heir in a previous class prevents the inheritance of the next class.

According to this principle, heirs in a closer class to the deceased prevent the inheritance of individuals in the following class.[5] For example, the siblings and parents of the deceased cannot inherit when there are descendants in the first class. The important thing here is to be a member of the class, the degree of relationship with the deceased is not important. For instance, even though the parents of the deceased are closer relatives, if the deceased's great-grandchild is a member of the first class, they will have the right to inherit before the parents.

• The primary heirs in a class prevent the inheritance of the lower level heirs.

• Class heads and root heads have priority.

Assuming that the deceased person has no descendants, the second level heirs are the inheritors. The parents make up the root heads of the second level heirs, while their children, i.e., the siblings of the deceased, are the lower roots. The lower roots cannot inherit if the root heads are still alive.

• If a class or root head does not inherit due to death before the deceased or any other reason, their place is taken by their descendants.

For example, if the aunt who is the heir when the grandmother dies rejects the inheritance, her children will take her place and become the heirs. The descendants of a deceased heir can only inherit if they died before the person who left the inheritance.

• Inheritance is distributed equally among the root heads.

To give an example, if A's descendants are B, C, D, and E, they each have an equal share of ¼ of the inheritance. If B, who is entitled to ¼ of the inheritance, died before the deceased person A, then B's share is equally distributed among their own descendants. This means that the total amount of cash in the deceased person's account is not divided equally among the surviving heirs, but rather divided equally among the number of root heads in the family.

• In the third class, if the heads of the class have died before the inheritance giver, the inheritance can only pass to the descendants through the rule of succession if there is no surviving spouse.[6]

The inheritance of the third degree of heirs depends on whether the deceased's spouse is alive and whether there are no heirs in the first and second degrees. If there are no heirs in the first and second degrees, and the deceased's spouse is also not present, then the inheritance passes to the third degree of heirs. In another scenario, if the deceased's spouse is alive, the inheritance is divided among the third degree of heirs according to Article 499 of the Turkish Civil Code. In such a case, the spouse takes 3/4 of the inheritance, and the third degree of heirs takes 1/4. The third degree of heirs also share the remaining inheritance equally based on the principles of equality and succession.[7]


The system of class (heirship classes) is a clear and understandable system within the framework of the universal principle of equality, and the advantage of this system is that the shares of the heirs can be determined in advance.

It ensures justice for everyone by eliminating disputes over who will have ownership of the deceased's property after their death. The only criticism that can be made is that if there are heirs in the previous class, the heirship of the next class is prevented. Ultimately, the fact that the heirs of the class closest to the deceased may not be able to inherit due to the difference in their class causes criticism.



Dicle Sezer





[1] Z. İmre & H. Erman, Inheritance Law ( İstanbul : Beta Basım, 1989 ), 12-13.

[2] N. A. Midyat, 'Certificate of Inheritance' (Corrected Master's Thesis, Department of Private Law, Istanbul University Institute of Social Sciences, Istanbul 2002), 12.

[3] M. Üye, "Statutory Inheritance Rights in Turkish Law and Swedish Law" (Master's Thesis, Ankara University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of Private Law (Comparative Law), Ankara 2010), 56-57.

[4] Midyat, ‘’Certificate of Inheritance’’, 13.

[5] K. Oğuzman, Law of Inheritance, (Istanbul: Filiz Kitabevi, 1995), 33.

[6] M. Dural & T. Öz, Turkish Private Law Volume IV Inheritance Law, (Istanbul: Filiz Kitabevi, 2015), 21-31.

[7] M. Öncülokur, "State Succession in Inheritance," (Master's Thesis, Istanbul Medipol University Institute of Social Sciences Private Law Master's Program, Istanbul 2020), 14.

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