SynopsisAs per Hindu Succession Act, 1956, there is a scenario where the husband of a Hindu woman who has died intestate will not be the legal heir to certain properties of the deceased woman.
If a Hindu male dies without a will then his assets are passed on to his Class I heirs like his mother, wife, son, daughter and so on (father is not an immediate Class I legal heir). However, this is not the case if a Hindu woman dies intestate. If a Hindu woman dies without a will then, who her class-I heirs are, depends on whether she has children. And just like the father is not an immediate legal heir of a Hindu male, there is a scenario where the husband of a Hindu woman who has died intestate will not be the legal heir to certain properties of the deceased woman.
Here is how property of a deceased Hindu woman will be divided in the absence of a will.
- If a married Hindu woman has no children
If a married Hindu woman does not have children, then the devolution of her property after her death will depend on how the properties and other assets were acquired by her.
Usually, a woman can acquire property by these routes:
- Acquire it herself (also known as self-acquired property)
- Acquire it via inheritance from her parents after their death
- Acquire it as a gift from her parents when they are alive
- Acquire it as a share in coparcenary property after its division
- Acquire it as a gift from her husband or father-in-law
Let us now see who are the legal heirs to the property in each of these cases.
Amit Jajoo, Partner, IndusLaw, an Indian law firm advising on various aspects says, “Self-acquired property or property received by the woman from her husband or father-in-law will be divided among the heirs of husband. As per Hindu Succession Act, the immediate legal heirs of husband (Hindu male) will include husband’s son, daughter, mother, children of pre-deceased sons and daughters, widow of pre-deceased son etc. Therefore, in the absence of children, only the husband and mother-in-law of Hindu woman will be considered as Class-I legal heirs of husband. Even the Streedhan of the married woman will be divided among the heirs of husband, i.e., between husband himself and mother-in-law.”
With regards to property acquired as a gift, the husband will be the legal heir of the property. “The property received by the married Hindu woman by way of gift from her parents or share in the coparcenary property, after its division, is considered as woman’s own property. Thus, husband will be the legal heir of such property,” informs Sukun Chandele, Partner, Mind Legal, a Delhi-based law firm.
What if the coparcenary property is undivided, who will be the legal heirs of such a property?
“With respect to undivided coparcenary property, upon the woman’s demise, in the absence of children and grandchildren, the property would devolve solely upon the husband. Since the right to coparcenary property of the woman has arisen by virtue of birth, and not by inheritance from father or mother, it cannot go to the heirs of the father but will devolve as per the general rule that whatever property belongs to the woman will devolve solely upon the husband in the absence of children and grandchildren,” says Chandele.
However, the same cannot be said for inherited property. Chandele says, “The property inherited by the woman after the death of her father or mother will not have the husband as a legal heir. In case of inherited property, such property will be divided among the heirs of the deceased woman’s father in the absence of children and grandchildren. The heirs of the father would include his mother, his wife, his children, children of his pre-deceased children and so on.”
Thus, if a married Hindu woman without children dies intestate, then the husband would not have legal right over the property inherited by the married woman from her parents.
- If a married Hindu woman has children
If a married Hindu woman has children, then irrespective of whether the property has been received from her parents, husband, or parents-in-law, the properties will be divided among her class-I heirs. Even her own self-acquired property including Streedhan will be divided among the class-I heirs.
Jajoo says, “Class-I heirs of a married woman are: sons and daughters (including children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and husband. However, do keep in mind that wife of the pre-deceased son and husband of pre-deceased daughter will not be considered as legal heirs for such properties of a married woman.”
Disclaimer:This article does not constitute legal advice. It is based on opinions and answers obtained to specific questions from different legal experts. Case specific legal advice should be obtained independently before taking any action
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