You would have often heard of disputes regarding the grandson's right in grandfather's property. In India, the inheritance law for grandchildren is the respective law of succession/inheritance.
Hence, the right of grandchildren to inherit their grandparents' property must be determined per the applicable law of succession.
Grandson's Rights in Grandfather's Property
A grandson's right to grandfather's property depends upon the applicable inheritance law. There is no uniform Law of Inheritance in India. Succession and inheritance are subject to various personal laws, depending upon religion. Let us examine a Hindu grandson's rights in his grandfather's property, based on the type of property and the succession rules.
Property can either be self-acquired or ancestral. Ancestral property is passed on through generations—the right to inherit such property vests since birth and not depend upon the owner's death. A self-acquired property, on the other hand, is a property which one earns oneself. The right to inherit a self-acquired property depends upon the Will of the deceased. In the absence of a will, the inheritance of a self-acquired property depends on the applicable law of intestate succession. While a grandchild or a grandson has equal rights in ancestral property, such rights do not exist in a self-acquired property. Let us see what the rights of a grandson on his grandfather's property are.
When a Grandchild/Grandson Can Inherit Grandfather's Property?
A grandson's right on his grandfather's ancestral property is by birth. It does not depend upon his father or grandfather's death. A grandson owns a share of his grandfather's property since birth. Distribution of property happens in such a way that each share gets further divided into successive generations. For instance, if the father inherited 50% of the property, the grandsons would inherit 25% each in their grandfather's property.
A self-acquired property is inherited either by a will or by rules of succession. If the deceased leaves a will behind, the property is divided according to that. If no will has been left behind, then the applicable law of succession will determine if the grandson will have a right on grandfather's property.
By a Will
Every adult and a mentally sound person is capable of executing a Will. The person who executes a will is known as a testator. By definition, a Will 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 their Will's legatees (who need not their family members or relatives) and how to divide their estate amongst the legatees.
Thus, if the deceased grandparent has left behind a Will, and that Will specifies that a grandchild will be a legatee of a specified share of their estate, then that grandchild will be entitled to inherit that share of that grandparent's estate.
However, if the deceased grandparent has left behind a Will, but the Will has not allotted a share of his estate to the grandchild, then the grandchild cannot claim any share of the deceased's estate.
Without A Will
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 comprises two types: (1) Joint Family Property and (2) Self-Acquired Property. True to its name, the clearest indication of Self-Acquired Property is that it has been acquired with the money of one's own efforts.
A grandchild can inherit their grandparent's property only if their parent through whom they are related to that grandparent has died before that grandparent. In such a case, the share of the grandfather's property the parent in question would have inherited if they were alive will be divided amongst the mother (if she is alive) and the grandchild and their siblings. The siblings, and the mother, will divide this share equally. The siblings will both get equal shares.
Illustration— Grandchild G is related to their grandmother GM through their father F. F has died before GM. F, if he were alive, would have been entitled to inherit 1/3 of GM's property. G has a sibling S, and a surviving mother M. Hence, the 1/3 share of GM will be divided equally amongst M and G+S. Thus, M will take get a 1/6 share, and G and S will divide their 1/6 shares equally amongst themselves. So, finally, the grandchild G will get 1/12 of the grandfather's property.
Property Inherited From Father
Let us also see how the property inherited from a father differs from the property a grandson inherits from his grandfather:
If the property is ancestral in nature, then the grandson has an equal right as his father in his grandfather's property.
The property inherited from the father's self-acquired property would vest in the child only after the father's death. A grandson, on the other hand, has a right to inherit his grandfather's property since birth.
A father can exclude his child from his self-acquired property, but a grandson cannot be excluded from his grandfather's property if the property is ancestral.
If the self-acquired property of the grandfather passes on to the grandchild, then he can inherit the property only after his father's death. The grandson or grandchild will get the share of his deceased father.
Hence, the distribution of grandfather's property among his grandchildren depends heavily on the type of property it is. However, to avoid disputes, it is always best to prepare a will beforehand.