In most cases, a will ensures that the assets are transferred to the desired beneficiaries, which may not happen if a person dies intestate, especially in case of Hindu women. The succession laws for women vary according to their religion.
While it’s a good idea to write a will, most women fail to do so despite having property, both movable and immovable, in their names. In most cases, a will ensures that the assets are transferred to the desired beneficiaries, which may not happen if they die intestate, especially in case of Hindu women. The succession laws for women vary according to their religion as follows:
1. For Hindu women (Sikh, Buddhist, Jain)
The succession laws for Hindu women are governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1925, in case there is a will, and by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, if the woman dies intestate. While Section 14 defines what constitutes a woman’s property, Sections 15 & 16 lay down the rules and order of inheritance.
Section 14 does not differentiate between inherited and self-acquired property and includes all the property obtained through ‘inheritance or devise, or at a partition, or in lieu of maintenance or arrears of maintenance, or by gift from any person, whether a relative or not, before, at or after her marriage, or by her own skill or exertion, or by purchase or by prescription, or in any other manner, and also any such property held by her as streedhan.’
Section 15 lists the successors of a woman’s property and Section 16 defines the order of succession. In Section 15, there is a distinction depending on whether the property is inherited or not. Section 15 (1) deals with ‘general property’, that is, self-acquired property or that received via gift, will, settlement, prescription, etc. Section 15 (2), on the other hand, deals only with property inherited by a woman from her parents, husband or father-in-law.
In case of general property, under Section 15 (1), it shall go, in order of preference:
a) Firstly to sons and daughters, including children of any pre-deceased son or daughter, and the husband;
b) Next, to the heirs of the husband;
c) Then, to the mother and father;
d) Next, to the heirs of father; and
e) Finally, to the heirs of mother.
If the property is self-acquired, the husband is predeceased and there are no kids, it will go to the husband’s heirs, not to her parents, siblings or other relatives.
In inherited property, there is a further distinction based on the source of inheritance. As per Section 15 (2)(a), if the property is inherited from her parents, it devolves to the father’s heirs in the absence of any kids. As per Section 15 (2)(b), if the property is inherited from her husband or father-in-law, it devolves, in the absence of kids, to husband’s heirs.
Under Muslim Law, there is no distinction between self-acquired and ancestral property. Legal heirs are divided into sharers and residuary, with sharers getting the first share and residuary what is left. If the woman inherits property from any relative, be it husband, son, father or mother, she is the absolute owner of her share and can dispose of it. If she makes a will, she cannot give away more than one-third share of her property, and if her husband is the only heir, she can give two-thirds of the property by will.
As per the Indian Succession Act, 1925, the widower gets one-third property and balance is distributed among lineal descendants. If there are no lineal descendants, only the kindred, the widower gets half the property and the balance is distributed among kindred. If there is no kindred, the widower gets the entire property.
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