The Understanding of Inheritance Law and Important Elements in It

Inheritance becomes one of the things that is often discussed and debated when one of the family members dies. This is related to the distribution of property from the person who has died to the descendants or those who are entitled to it.

Inheritance can be arranged or divided by referring to the applicable inheritance law. However, until now, the inheritance law experts in Indonesia have not agreed on the same meaning so the term “inheritance law” still has a variety of meanings.

Wirjono Prodjodikoro, uses the term “inheritance law.” Hazairin, uses the term “inheritance law” and Soepomo calls it the term “inheritance law. Soepomo is of the opinion that the rules governing the process of continuing and passing on property and intangibles from a generation of people to their descendants.

To understand more about the law of inheritance, the following will be explained in more detail about the law of inheritance that has been compiled from various sites on the internet.

Definition of Inheritance Law

To understand the meaning of inheritance law, Reader can listen to some expert opinions on inheritance law that have been summarized from various sites on the internet as follows.

1. Gregor Van der Burght

Inheritance law in the view of Gregor Van der Burght is a set of rules that regulate the legal consequences of property upon death, the transfer of property left by the deceased and the legal consequences caused by the transfer for the recipients both in relation and balance in between them one with another or with a third party.

2. Assumption

In Soepomo’s view, the law of inheritance contains rules that govern the process of passing on and passing on property and intangibles (immateriele goederen ) from a generation of people (generatie ) to their descendants.

This process has started when the parents are still alive. The process does not become “acute” because the parents died. The death of the father or mother is an important event for the process, but does not radically affect the process of continuation and transfer of material and non-material property.

3. R. Wirjono Prodjodikiro

Wirjono put forward the opinion that inheritance disputes arise when someone dies, then there is property left behind, and then there are people who are entitled to receive the property left behind, and then there is no agreement on the division of the inherited property.

Inheritance law is a matter of whether and how the various rights and obligations of a person’s wealth at the time of his death will pass to the living.

Wirjono shows that there are three main elements in inheritance law as follows.

  • A bequeather ( erflater ), who at his death leaves wealth.
  • One or several heirs ( erfenaam ), who are entitled to receive the wealth left behind.
  • Inherited property ( nalatenschap ), which is the form of wealth that is left behind and once transferred to the heirs

4. Ali Afandi

In Ali Afandi’s view, the law of inheritance is the law that governs the wealth left by a deceased person and the consequences for his heirs.

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5. Santoso Pudjosubroto

Inheritance law in the view of Santoso Pudjosubroto is a law that regulates whether and how the rights and obligations of a person’s property at the time of his death will pass to other people who are still alive.

6. Ter Haar Bzn

Ter Haar Bzn put forward an opinion on the law of inheritance as legal rules regarding how from century to century the continuation and transition of tangible and intangible wealth from generation to generation.


Elements of Inheritance Law

In inheritance law, several terms are known as follows.

1. Heirs

Heir refers to the person who is entitled to receive the inheritance (legacy) of the person who has died.

2. Inheritance

Heritage is inheritance, inheritance, and will. Inheritance is not only in the form of property, but can be in the form of debt that must be paid by the person who is still alive and becomes his heir or heir.

3. Heirs

An heir is a person who gives an inheritance, that is, a person who dies and leaves a number of assets, inheritance, or a will. Generally, heirs give property, obligations, or debts to other people or heirs.

4. Heirs

Heirs refer to all the people who become heirs, meaning those who are entitled to receive the property left by the heir. This heir has the legal right to receive all property, obligations, and even debts left by the heir.

5. Inherit

Inheriting refers to the meaning of inheriting property, usually all the heirs inherit the property left by the heir.

6. Inheritance Process

The term inheritance process has two meanings as follows.

  • Continuation or designation of heirs while the heir is still alive.
  • Distribution of inheritance after the death of the heir.

Law of Inheritance in Indonesia

Indonesia is a country with diverse cultural heritage and a multicultural country. The various rules that exist cannot box the existing culture. Indonesia itself does not yet have a nationally applicable law of inheritance.

Therefore, inheritance law in Indonesia refers to customary inheritance law, Islamic inheritance law, and civil inheritance law. The following is an explanation of various inheritance laws that have been summarized from the site.

1. Customary Inheritance Law

Indonesia consists of various ethnic groups, religions, and customs that are different from each other and have their own special characteristics. This has an effect on the law that applies in each group of society known as customary law.

Customary inheritance law can be interpreted as legal rules that govern the continuation and transition from one generation to the next, whether in the form of tangible or intangible wealth.

Customary law itself is unwritten, only in the form of norms and customs that must be obeyed by certain communities in a region. The law is binding and only applies in the area with specific sanctions for violators.


Due to the fact that customary inheritance law is often influenced by social or kinship structures. In Indonesia itself there are several types of inheritance systems as follows.

  • Descent System

This system is divided into three types, namely the patrilineal system which is based on the father’s bloodline, the matrilineal system based on the mother’s bloodline, and the bilateral system which is the system based on the bloodline of both parents.

  • Individual System

Each heir obtains or owns the inheritance according to their respective share. In general, this system is applied to societies that adhere to bilateral social systems such as Javanese and Batak.

  • Collective System

Heirs receive the inherited property as a unit that is not divided in its control or ownership and each heir only has the right to use or get results from the property. An example is heirlooms in a certain community.

  • Majority System

Inherited property is transferred as an indivisible unit with the right of control transferred to a specific child. For example, to the eldest child who serves as the head of the family replacing the position of the father or mother as the head of the family, such as in Balinese and Lampung communities inheritance is passed on to the eldest son and in South Sumatra to the eldest daughter.

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2. Law of Civil Heirs

The law of civil inheritance or what is better known as the law of western inheritance is applied by the non-Muslim community including the color of the country of Indonesian descent, whether Chinese or European whose provisions are regulated in the Civil Code (KUHP).

In the legal system, civil heirs adhere to the individual system in which each heir owns the inheritance according to their respective share. The following are the legal rules for civil heirs.

  • Inheriting based on the law or inheriting without a will is called Ab-instentato, while the heir is called Ab-instaat. There are 4 groups of heirs based on the law, among them the following.
  1. Group I consists of husband and wife and children and their descendants.
  2. Group II consists of parents and relatives and their descendants.
  3. Group III consists of grandfathers, grandmothers and so on.
  4. Group IV consists of families in a more distant collateral line, including relatives of heirs of group III and their descendants.
  • Inheriting based on a will, which is in the form of a person’s statement about what he wants after he dies, which can be changed or revoked by the maker as long as he is alive in accordance with the Civil Code Article 992. The way to cancel it must be with a new will or done with a Notary .

3. Islamic Inheritance Law

Islamic inheritance law is used by Indonesian people who embrace Islam. The inheritance law is regulated in Article 171-214 of the Compilation of Indonesian Law, which is the material of Islamic law written in 229 articles.

Islamic inheritance law adheres to the principle of bilateral individual inheritance, not collective or majority. Therefore, the heir can come from the father’s or mother’s side. In Islamic inheritance law, there are three conditions for inheritance to be declared to exist so that the right becomes valid and handed over to a person or heir who receives the inheritance as follows.

  • The bequeather (heir) has died and it can be legally proven that he has died. If there is a division or gift of property in the family while the heir is still alive, it is not included in the category of heir but is called hibah.
  • The person who inherits (the heir) is still alive when the person who inherits dies.
  • The person who inherits and inherits has a relationship of descent or kinship, both a straight upward line relationship such as father or grandfather and a straight downward relationship such as children, grandchildren, and uncles.