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.
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.
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.