Know About Property Rights of Daughters in India
Property

Know About Property Rights of Daughters in India

In India, daughters did not always have property rights. Women have always been treated inferior to men, both in terms of inheritance rights and the capacity to hold Property independently. There were many restrictions on both inheritance rights and women's property rights, which did not exist for men. 

Today, the Law of Inheritance's entire body has undergone significant reforms through subsequent legislation and amendments. Daughters now have an equal share in Property.

 

Daughter's Right in Property

Today, your gender as a woman is of little consequence for your property rights. Hence, the property rights of daughters are almost entirely the same as the property rights of sons. 

A daughter can acquire, hold, and dispose of, Property at par with any other man. Today, there are practically no restrictions on a woman's capacity to acquire, hold, and dispose of, her Property. Daughters have an equal share in their father's self-acquired Property as well as ancestral property. Daughters after the Supreme Court judgment of 2005 have become coparceners. Hence, they have equal rights in all Property, including agricultural lands. Both men and women are equally capable of holding their own, separate Property. Any restrictions on property rights are the same for all genders. Hence, daughters today have virtually equal rights in Property as a son does.

 

Equal Property Share for Daughters

Your gender as a woman does not place you at any significant disadvantage in the arena of inheritance rights. 

As a daughter, you have the same inheritance rights as a son of your generation. Thus, a daughter has the same inheritance rights as a son; a granddaughter has essentially the same inheritance rights as a grandson, and so on. In most cases, the daughter is entitled to inherit the same share of her ancestors' Property as a son of the same generation is. Marriage does not affect a daughter's inheritance rights. A married daughter has the same right to Property as an unmarried daughter. 

In India, the Law of Inheritance varies based on religion. The religion of the deceased governs, which Law of Inheritance will apply. Thus, Hindu Inheritance Law applies to the death of a Hindu, Christian Inheritance Law applies to the death of a Christian, Muslim Inheritance Law applies to a Muslim's death, etc.

People Also Read This: Inheritance Rights of Grandchildren in India

Hindu Property Law for Daughters

Both sons, and daughters, are equally capable of acquiring, holding, and disposing of their own property. There is almost complete equality between sons and daughters in this regard. 

In the inheritance arena, the Hindu Law of Succession has undergone a great transformation over the past century. Classically, the property rights of daughters were significantly inferior to the property rights of sons. Subsequent legislation and amendments have nullified discrimination against daughters. After enacting the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, sons and daughters now enjoy virtually the same property rights. 

 

Equal Rights of Daughters in Joint Family Property

In Hindu Law, for the purpose of inheritance, Property is classified into two types: (1) Joint Family Property and (2) Self-Acquired Property. Essentially, all Property inherited by a son from their father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather is considered Joint Family Property. All other Property is considered Self-Acquired Property. Depending on where you reside in India, the character of these types of properties is either the same or different. In regions where this distinction is followed: 

  1. Joint Family Property is inherited differently (compared to Self-Acquired Property). 

  2. Multiple persons have rights over the Joint Family Property by birth. This is unlike Self-Acquired Property, over which rights can be acquired only if you have acquired them yourself. 

The rights of both sons, and daughters, to inherit, acquire, hold, and dispose of the Self-Acquired Property of their ancestors is essentially the same everywhere.  

However, in regions where this distinction is maintained, daughters did not enjoy the same rights as sons in Joint Family Property for a long time. Daughters were at a disadvantage compared to sons in terms of both their rights to control the property and their rights to inherit it. Legislation after legislation has gradually diluted this inequality over the past century. Finally, with the enactment of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, sons and daughters now have equal rights to inherit the Joint Family Property of their ancestors.

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Inheritance rights of Daughter. 

In 2020, the Supreme Court decision on property rights of daughters, Vineeta Sharma vs. Rakesh Sharma, confirmed that sons, and daughters, indeed have exactly the same rights in the Joint Family Property. The inheritance rights of the daughter do not change on her marriage, the death of her husband, the death of her father, or anything else for that matter. Hence, the case used what has now become a famous expression: "once a daughter, always a daughter." Thus, an unmarried daughter and a married daughter are all entitled to the same property rights in the Joint Family Property of their parents. A daughter-in-law is too entitled to inherit her father-in-law's Property. This rule holds true for a widowed daughter-in-law as well. As long as the daughter is alive, she is entitled to control and inherit her ancestors' Joint Family Property at par with a son.

What Does the Succession Law Say?
Wills / Trusts

What Does the Succession Law Say?

Throughout your life, you will acquire multiple properties. All of these properties, taken together, comprise your estate. When you pass away, your estate must find new owners. Otherwise, it will be left in an 'ownerless' estate. 

Thus, after you pass away, your estate will pass to new owners. This process is known as Succession or Inheritance. The new owners of your estate are known as your successors. Succession Law is the law that governs this entire process. Succession is different from Inheritance. Inheritance is the process of the heir inheriting his ancestors' Property. Succession governs how the inheritance would take place. Typically, under Indian Succession Law, a succession certificate is required. Succession Certificate is credible proof that the person obtaining the same is the rightful heir. 

 

Types of Succession

Succession is of two types: 

  1. Testamentary Succession. 

  2. Intestate Succession. 

After your death, the succession of your estate will be either testamentary or intestate. It cannot be both at the same time. If you have left behind a Will, the succession of your estate will be testamentary. Otherwise (that is, if you have not left behind a Will), your estate's succession will be intestate. 

 

Testamentary Succession

Testamentary succession is nothing more than executing a will. A will would then govern how your property is distributed among your legal heirs. A will includes the following information: 

a) Who gets your estate 

b) How is your estate distributed among the various heirs? 

Persons named in your will are your legatees. You can choose anyone to be your legatee. It is not required that a legatee is your relative. Wills are recognized under the Indian Succession laws.

The Indian Succession Act, 1925 governs the making and enforcing of Wills. It is the law which governs testamentary succession in India. Indian Succession Act, 1925 applies to everyone, except Muslims. Muslims are governed by their own personal laws. A Will gives you freedom to distribute your property according to your wishes.  However, if you are a Muslim, you cannot bequeath by a Will any more than 1/3 of your estate unless your legal heirs' consent to exceed this cap. There is no such limitation for anyone else.

You can execute your Will in accordance with the Indian Succession Act, 1925, if you are not a Muslim. If you are a Muslim, you have to execute your Will according to the Muslim personal laws. Capture the will in writing and sign it. You can also affix your thumb impression on the Will. Two witnesses need to attest the Will. These witnesses should have seen you sign the Will. A Will can be executed on plain paper. A Will need not be executed on a stamp paper. It is also not necessary to be registered.

Muslims can execute their Wills through a far easier procedure. Your Will need not be signed or written. It can even be oral. There is no need for attesting witnesses. You need to make your intent clear through your Will. However, oral wills are difficult to prove. Hence, It is preferable to capture your will in writing. 

After one passes away, a person should be made responsible to execute the will. Typically, lawyers are given this responsibility.  When another person implements the instructions given in the Will of a deceased, it is called executing the Will. The person who executes the Will is called an executor. Executors take care that the estate is distributed in accordance with the Will. There can be multiple executors. You can choose one person or more than one person to act as executors of your Will.  Remember to take their consent. Choosing an executor should be a careful process. If you don't appoint an executor, or the executors refuse to act as executors after your death, the competent court can appoint some of your legal heirs as the executor[s].

 

Intestate Succession

If you die without leaving a Will, your property would pass on through Intestate succession. Laws governing intestate succession in India are not uniform. You are governed by the personal law of your religion. 

Different laws of intestate succession govern different religions in India. For instance, Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governs the intestate succession for Hindus.  Indian Succession Act, 1925, governs the intestate succession for Christians. Hence, if you are a Hindu, then the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 will apply; if you are a Christian, then the Indian Succession Act, 1925 will apply, etc.

While different laws apply to different religions, the core provisions are uniform across all laws. Certain persons will become the new owners of your estate. These persons are known as your legal heirs.

Each legal heir will inherit a specific share of your estate. The applicable Law of Intestate Succession will hence specify both your legal heirs and the shares of your estate each legal heir is entitled to inherit.

For instance, consider a married Hindu male. If you are a Hindu married male, ordinarily, your wife, sons, daughters, and mother are your legal heirs. They will each take an equal share of your estate. If you pass away leaving behind,a son, daughter and a wife, each of them will be entitled to an equal share. If your daughter is already deceased and is survived by her daughter, then your grand-daughter would also have a right in the property through her deceased mother. 

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Hindu Law of Succession

The Hindu Law of Succession is contained in the following three sources: 

  1. The Indian Succession Act, 1925, which governs the testamentary succession of the estate of a Hindu. 

  2. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which governs the intestate succession of the estate of a Hindu. 

  3. The succession of Hindu Joint Family Property, in almost the whole of India except some eastern regions, continues to be governed by ancient religious rules. This is quite a small portion of the Hindu Law of Succession. 

Succession in Hindu Law makes a distinction between two types of Property: (1) Joint Family Property and (2) Self-Acquired Property. In almost all parts of India except portions of the eastern region, the rules of succession governing Joint Family Property, and Self-Acquired Property, are different.  

The Hindu Succession Amendment Act of 2005 has now started giving daughters also succession rights. 

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Succession and Wills. 

The Indian Succession Act, 1925

The Indian Succession Act 1925, is one of the oldest Indian statutes governing succession. It governs intestate succession for Christians, Parsis, and some other religions. 

However, the Indian Succession Act is special for two other reasons. 

  1. It is the uniform law that governs testamentary succession for all religions except Islam. Hence, unless you are a Muslim, the entire process of preparing and executing a will, beginning from you authoring it to your wishes in it being carried out, will be governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925. 

  2. Even in cases of intestate succession controlled by other religious laws, the Indian Succession Act has a role to play in some respects. For instance, the Act contains the procedure for appointing administrators for your estate. Administrators are responsible for distributing your estate to your legal heirs. Another important function is, succession certificates are issued under the Indian Succession Act. A Succession Certificate issued to a particular person will establish that they are entitled to succeed as a part of your estate.

Know About Inheritance Rights in India
Property

Know About Inheritance Rights in India

You inherit property when your parents or grandparents, or any other relative pass away. This inheritance can either be through a will or intestate succession. Intestate succession means that the property will pass on to your legal heirs through rules created by the laws of succession. Different personal laws govern the rights of heirs to an estate. Many people do not know how inheritance rights function and this lack of knowledge leads to issues during partition or succession. Through this article, we will tell you how heirs' rights to property function in India. 

 

The Right to Inherit Property

Before we discuss the heir property rights, it is essential to understand the two types of property. Typically, a property is of two types: 

  • Ancestral property: Such property is passed on through generations. An heir typically has a right over an ancestral property by his birth. 

  • Self-acquired property: A self-acquired property is a property that the owner has earned through his efforts. 

A property becomes your own only when you can legitimately claim to exercise some rights over it. For instance, your neighbor's house is not your property because you don't have any rights over it. However, your own house is your property because you can legitimately exercise some rights over it. Thus, acquiring a property means becoming capable of exercising some rights over it. 

Property can be acquired in many ways. You can enter into an agreement with another person, such as a sale deed for the sale of their land to you, and thus acquire that property. There are many other such modes. Inheritance is one of them. Thus, when you inherit a property, the consequence is that you will be able to exercise some rights over it. 

As mentioned above, the Law of Inheritance will decide who the new owners of your estate will be. Certain persons will inherit defined shares of your estate. These persons are known as your' heirs'. Each of your heirs will have a right in your estate. 

Illustration — According to the applicable Law of Inheritance, your son S, daughter D, and mother M are your successors. Each of them is entitled to inherit 1/3 of your estate. Thus, S, D, and M will each have the right to inherit 1/3 of your estate. These are the inheritance rights of S, D, and M about your estate. Once inheritance occurs, S, D, and M will have acquired 1/3 of your estate each. 

 

The Law of Inheritance in India

There is no uniform Law of Inheritance in India. Instead, the Law of Inheritance varies based on one's religion. A small part of the Law of Inheritance is the same for all religions. However, the vast majority of it varies by religion. Thus, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, etc., are each governed by their largely by their own, unique Laws of Inheritance. 

The religion of the deceased governs, which Law of Inheritance will govern the succession of their estate. Thus, when a Hindu dies, then the succession of their estate will be governed by the Hindu Law of Inheritance; when a Muslim dies, then the succession of their estate will be governed by the Muslim Law of Inheritance, and so on. 

People Also Read This: What Does the Succession Law Say?

Inheritance Rights in Parents' Property

As a child, you generally have the right to inherit some portion of your parents' property. However, your parents are perfectly capable of varying your share, or depriving you of your full share (thus completely disinheriting you), by executing a Will to this effect. 

In India, the traditional mindset has excluded women's rights in parents' property. Before 2005, a daughter was only a member of the family and not a coparcener. A coparcener has the right to inherit the property; a member does not. A member can only ask for maintenance. After 2005, now daughters have also become coparceners and have an equal right to inherit parents' property.

Classically, in some religions, a daughter's marriage deprived them of their right to inherit their parents' property. However, this is no longer the case. Today, marriage alone will not affect your inheritance rights. A married daughter has the same rights to inherit her parents' property as an unmarried daughter does. 

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Property inheritance process. 

Women's Inheritance Rights in India

Women, before 2005, were looked upon as members and not coparceners. Hence, they did not have a right to inherit the property. Let us understand women's inheritance rights in India vis-à-vis the different positions women hold in the family: 

Wife: A wife is entitled to her husband's property. A woman's property rights do not vary after her husband's death. 

Daughter: After 2005, if you are a daughter, you are also a coparcener in your father's property and hence have a right to inherit property. Today, your gender as a woman alone is of little consequence. As a woman, you have more or less the same inheritance rights as a man of your generation. Thus, a woman has essentially the same inheritance rights in her parents' property as a son; a granddaughter has essentially the same inheritance rights in her grandparents' property as a grandson, and so on. A woman can acquire, and hold, property at par with a man. Marriage generally does not deprive a woman of her inheritance rights. 

While rules of Intestate Succession govern the distribution of a property where no will is left behind, it is preferable that you take legal help and prepare and register a Will. Inheritance through a Will is easier and smoother.

How to Inherit Property in India?
Property

How to Inherit Property in India?

Inheritance of Property After Death

Throughout your life, you have accumulated a number of properties. All of these properties, taken together, comprise your estate. If you want to choose whom your properties pass on to, you should frame a will of inherited property. If you do not frame a will then the property succession will happen as per law of inheritance. Let us see how property is inherited in India

Inheritance of Property in India

The Law of Inheritance, also known as the Law of Succession, controls the process of inheritance. Property succession in India is of two types:

  1. Testamentary Succession: You may choose to execute a Will. The Will, by definition, will specify who will inherit what shares of your estate. In such a case, succession will take place according to the instructions contained in your Will. When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as testamentary succession. 

  2. Intestate Succession: You may also choose not to execute a Will. However, someone must still inherit your property. The Law of Inheritance has a built-in contingency for such cases. The law specifies certain persons as your legal heirs, who are entitled to defined shares of your estate after your death. When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as intestate succession. 

Succession will be either testamentary or intestate. It cannot be both at the same time. If you leave behind a Will, the succession of your estate will be testamentary. If you don’t, it will be intestate. 

Legal Inheritance of Property

Testamentary Succession

Testamentary succession will occur if you leave behind a Will. 

Every mentally sound adult is capable of executing a Will. A Will is a legal document that contains instructions to govern the inheritance of your estate. It will specify (i) who will be entitled to your estate and (ii) the shares of your estate each of them will be entitled to. The persons who are entitled to inherit under your Will are known as your legatees. Any person can be a legatee, even a person who is not your relative. 

The Indian Succession Act, 1925 is the uniform Law of Testamentary Succession which governs everyone except Muslims. Muslims are governed by their own Muslim Law of Testamentary Succession. 

You have practically unlimited discretion to decide, your legatees and the shares of your estate each will inherit. Generally, all of your property can be bequeathed by a Will. However, if you are a Muslim, then you cannot bequeath by a Will any more than 1/3 of your estate, unless your legal heirs consent to exceeding this cap. There is no such limitation for anyone else. 

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The manner of executing a Will differs, based on whether you are governed by the Indian Succession Act, 1925 or the Muslim Law of Testamentary Succession: 

  1. Unless you are a Muslim, you must follow the procedure in the Indian Succession Act to execute a Will. The Will must be written, and you must sign or affix your thumb impression on it. It must be attested by at least two witnesses who have seen you sign it. A Will can be executed on plain paper. It is not necessary to execute it on stamp paper. It is also not necessary to be registered. 

  2. If you are a Muslim, there is an even simpler procedure to execute a Will. Your Will need not be signed or written. It can even be oral. There is no need for attesting witnesses. The only requirement is that your intention should be clear. However, oral wills are notoriously difficult to prove. Hence, it is always prudent to execute your Will in writing, even though it is unnecessary. 

After your death, someone has to take the responsibility of carrying out the instructions in your Will. This process is known as the execution of the Will, and the person who does it is known as the executor. They will ensure that the specified shares of your estate are bequeathed to the respective legatees. There can be multiple executors. You have the option to specify the sole executor, or co-executors, of your Will in the Will itself. Remember to take their consent. Do give some thought to your choice of an executor, as this person will be the one responsible for executing your Will. If you don’t appoint an executor, or the executors refuse to act as executors after your death, the competent court can appoint some of your legal heirs as the executor[s]. 

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Intestate Succession

Intestate succession will occur if you don’t leave behind a Will. The applicable Law of Intestate Succession will govern the succession of your estate. 

There is no uniform Law of Intestate Succession in India. Rather, it varies based on one’s religion. Thus, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, etc., are all governed by their own separate Laws of Intestate Succession. For instance, the law for Hindus is contained in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the law for Christians is contained in the Indian Succession Act, 1925, etc. 

Your religion will determine which Law of Intestate Succession will govern the succession of your estate. Thus, if you are a Hindu, then the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 will govern; if you are a Christian, then the Indian Succession Act, 1925 will govern, etc. 

Regardless of which Law of Intestate Succession applies, at the highest level, all of them operate similarly: each of your legal heirs will inherit specific shares of your estate. The legal heirs, and the shares they are each entitled to, will vary based on the number of legal heirs alive and their relationship with each other. For instance, consider a married Hindu male. If you are a Hindu married male, ordinarily, your wife, sons, daughters, and mother are your legal heirs. They will each take an equal share of your estate. Thus, if you are survived by a wife, mother, one son, and one daughter, each of them will take a ¼ of your estate. However, if your daughter is dead, but she is survived by her only daughter (your grand-daughter), the grand-daughter will become an additional legal heir entitled to her mother’s share. Thus, she will inherit ¼ of your estate.  

Hence, the inheritance of property in India is a complex process, and in the absence of a will, is governed by property succession laws. 

Widow's Rights in a Father-in-Law's Property
Property

Widow's Rights in a Father-in-Law's Property

When will a widow be entitled to inherit the property of her father-in-law? The answer will depend on the applicable law of inheritance of property in India. The distribution of a father's property occurs per the inheritance property law in India. Let us see when a widow can inherit her father-in-law's property. 

The Inheritance Law in India

There is no uniform inheritance property law in India. The law of Inheritance varies based on one's religion. Thus, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, etc., are governed by their own separate inheritance laws. 

The religion of the deceased determines the law of inheritance that will govern the succession of their estate. Hence, when a Hindu dies, then the Hindu law of inheritance and succession applies to his estate.

Inheritance Property Law in India

 Succession under Hindu law is found in two laws: the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, and the Indian Succession Act, 1925. These laws govern who the estate of a Hindu deceased will pass to on their death. 

When Can a Widow Inherit Her Father-in-Law's Property?

(Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Property inheritance law.) 

Inheritance/succession is of two types:

  1. Testamentary Succession: When the deceased leaves behind a will, the instructions in the will alone govern the deceased's property's succession. Such succession is called testamentary succession. The Indian Succession Act, 1925, governs testamentary succession.

  2. Intestate Succession: In other cases, the deceased does not leave behind a Will. In such cases, the law decides which persons the estate of the deceased will succeed to. When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as intestate succession. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governs intestate succession.

Depending on the circumstances, a widow can inherit her father-in-law's property through both these modes. 

By Testamentary Succession 

Every adult and a mentally sound person is capable of executing a Will. The person who executes a will is known as a testator. A Will, by definition, specifies to whom the properties of the testator will pass to on their death. These beneficiaries are known as the legatees of the Will. A testator has almost unlimited discretion to decide the legatees of their Will (who need not their family members or relatives) and how to divide their estate amongst the legatees. 

Thus, if the deceased father-in-law has left behind a Will, and that Will specifies that a widow will be a legatee of a specified share of his estate, the widow will be entitled to inherit that share of the father-in-law's estate. 

On the contrary, there is also a corresponding risk. If the deceased father-in-law has left behind a Will, but the Will has not allotted a share of his estate to the widow, then the widow cannot claim any share of the deceased's estate. 

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By Intestate Succession

If the deceased Hindu has not left behind a Will, the succession of their estate will be governed by the rules contained in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. 

Under Hindu Law, the property is of two types: Joint Family property and Self-Acquired property. 

  1. Joint Family Property: All property inherited from one's ancestors is considered Joint Family Property. 

  2. Self-Acquired Property: All other properties are considered the Self-Acquired Property of the respective person. The clearest indication of Self-Acquired Property is that its has been acquired with the money of one's own efforts. 

The widow will inherit some portion of the father-in-law's Self-Acquired Property. The Self-Acquired Property of the deceased father-in-law will pass to his Class I heirs. The list of Class I heirs is contained in the Schedule of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The widow (of the deceased's son who died before the deceased) is a Class I heir. The deceased's widow, mother, sons, and daughters are other notable Class I heirs. Hence, the widow will definitely get a share of the father-in-law's Self-Acquired Property. However, the share of the father-in-law's Self-Acquired Property she will inherit will depend on the number of Class I heirs alive.

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The share will be determined by this process: 

  1. The deceased's widow, sons, daughters, and mother take equal shares of the property. 

  2. If any son, or daughter, of the deceased, has died before him, then the share of that son/daughter will be divided amongst their widow, sons, and daughters. In the case of a son, his sons and daughters will take one share, and his widow will take the second share, of that son's share. 

Thus, the widow of the father-in-law will take her share in Step 2. The extent of her share will depend on how many of the father-in-law's sons and daughters and mothers, and the widow's own sons and daughters, are alive. 

Illustration— The deceased X (the father-in-law) has been survived by his only daughter D, mother M, and the widow W of a son who died before him. This widow W has a single daughter WD of her own. 

  1. The Self-Acquired Property of the deceased will be divided equally amongst his mother M, dead son, and daughter D. Thus, D, M, and the dead son each get 1/3 of the property. 

  2. The 1/3 share of the dead son will then be divided equally amongst his widow W and the daughter WD of the widow. Thus, the widow W and her daughter WD both get 1/6 of the deceased's property each. 

Hence, the widow is entitled to inherit 1/6 of the self-acquired property of the father-in-law. 

Indian inheritance law gives more rights to a daughter than a daughter-in-law in father-in-law's property. The widow would be entitled to her deceased husband's share in an intestate succession. 

Intestate Succession or Succession without a WILL: Things you should know
Wills / Trusts

Intestate Succession or Succession without a WILL: Things you should know

Intestate succession means a succession without a will. A will generally dictates how a person plans to transfer his assets or properties after his death to his/her heirs. A person dies intestate when he has not bequeathed his properties according to a will. Succession can either be testate or intestate. 

Meaning of Testate Succession

In some cases, a person leaves behind a Will, which specifies property distribution after their death. In such cases, the Will controls succession.

When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as testamentary succession

Meaning of Intestate Succession

In other cases, a person does not leave behind a will. In such cases, intestate succession law controls succession. Thus, the persons who become entitled to the deceased's properties are the deceased's, legal heirs. In India, the succession law applicable to a deceased's estate depends on their religion. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, etc., have different succession laws. When succession takes place in this manner, it is known as intestate succession. 

Those who read this Article also Consulted a Lawyer about Will. 

 

Intestate Succession under Hindu Law

If the deceased is a Hindu, Hindu Succession law will govern the succession. The Hindu Law of Intestate Succession is in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. 

Two Types of Property

Under Hindu Law, the property is of two types: 

  1. Joint Family Property: The Hindu Joint Family is an ancient social structure prevailing in Indian society. In Hindu Law, specific properties are considered Joint Family Property. Generally, all property inherited from one's father, paternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather are considered Joint Family Property. 

  2. Self-Acquired Property: All other properties are considered the Self-Acquired Property of the respective person. The most unambiguous indication of Self-Acquired Property is that it is acquired with the money of one's efforts.

This distinction is important because, depending on where you reside, different rules govern the succession of Joint Family Property and Self-Acquired Property. 

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The succession of Joint Family Property

Depending on where you reside, you will be governed either by Dayabhaga Law or Mitakshara Law. Generally, Hindus living in West Bengal, Orissa, and parts of Assam, are governed by Mitakshara Law, and Mitakshara Law governs all other Hindus. Both of these refer to old schools of religious Hindu law that prevailed in these respective geographical regions. Once upon a time, these schools of law governed the substantial part of Hindu succession. Today, there are of minimal significance. Legally, its only importance in the present is determining the order of intestate succession.

Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act governs the Mitakshara Joint Family Property's succession. When a coparcener dies, their share in the Joint Family Property passes to the legal heirs according to the rules contained in this Section. The process is as follows: 

  1. You divide the whole joint family property amongst the deceased and their legal heirs. Usually, the deceased, their wife, their children (both sons and daughters), and their parents get equal shares.

  2. The share the deceased person receives becomes his self-acquired property. This share passes to the deceased's legal heirs according to the rules governing Self-Acquired Property's succession (see below).

The succession of Self-Acquired Property

The rules governing the succession of Self-Acquired Property of the deceased varies based on the gender of the deceased. However, the same rules apply to all Hindus regardless of whether Dayabhaga Law or Mitakshara Law governs them. 

For male Hindus, there are four categories of legal heirs: Class I heirs, Class II heirs, agnates, and cognates. The Schedule of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 specifies Class I heirs and Class II heirs. An agnate is a person who is (i) neither a Class I heir nor a Class II heir, but (ii) is a descendant of the deceased through a pure male line. A cognate is a person who is (i) neither a Class I heir nor a Class II heir, but (ii) is a descendant of the deceased through a line consisting of both males and females. The order of intestate succession in self-acquired property is as follows:

  1. Class I Heirs: If any Class I heir[s] exist, they get the deceased's whole Self-Acquired Property. If more than one such heir exists, they both get equal shares. The deceased's wife, sons, daughters, and mother are notable Class I heirs. However, the father of the deceased is not a Class I heir. 

  2. Class II Heirs: If not a single Class I heir exists, the whole Self-Acquired Property of the deceased goes to the Class II heirs. The deceased's father, brothers, and sisters are notable Class II heirs. If the father is alive, he takes the whole property. If he isn't alive, then the brothers and sisters take the property in equal shares. 

  3. Agnates: If there are no Class I and Class II heirs, the deceased's agnates take the whole of the Self-Acquired Property. 

  4. Cognates: If there are no Class I and Class II heirs, the deceased's cognates take the whole of the Self-Acquired Property. 

A different set of rules applies to female Hindus. For female Hindus, the order of intestate succession for legal heirs is: (i) sons, daughters, and husband; (ii) heirs of the husband; (iii) parents; (iv) heirs of the father; and (vi) heirs of the mother. Each category is preferred to the later ones, in that order of preference. All heirs of the same class get equal shares of the property. 

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Position of Illegitimate Children

The intestate succession of an illegitimate child is only through his mother. An illegitimate child's share in intestate succession is restricted to his mother and not his father.  

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