SynopsisAs per the Hindu Succession Act, if a Hindu Male dies intestate (i.e. without having a will), then class-I legal heirs will have first right over the assets including property. However, there are six situations where an individual and his/her children lose their legal right over the assets such as bank accounts, mutual funds, property etc.
When a person dies without a will, then all his/her legal heirs (defined as ‘heirs’ as per succession laws) have right to the property of the deceased, depending on the applicable succession laws. For instance, if a Hindu male dies intestate (without a will), then the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 will be applicable. Under this Act, the class-I legal heirs have first right over the assets of a deceased Hindu male. These class-I legal heirs, amongst others, include the mother, wife, son and daughter. Do note that the father is not a class-I legal heir of a Hindu male.
However, under the Hindu Succession Act, there are certain situations in which an individual and his/her children will lose their legal right to inherit property. Here are six instances where an individual and his/her heirs can lose their right to inherit property.
- Conversion to another religion
If you convert to another religion, then you and your children may lose the legal right to inherit the assets held by your family. Praveen Kumar Thodupunuri, Partner, IndusLaw says, “Whether an individual will lose legal rights to a property after converting to another religion will depend on two conditions. The first condition is succession law applicable to him/her before the conversion and the second condition is whether the said property has been divided or not before the conversion happened.”
Dinesh Pednekar, Partner, Economic Laws Practice says, “Under the Hindu Succession Act, if an individual converts to another religion, then his/her children born after conversion will lose right of succession to property of any of their Hindu relatives.”
Pednekar explains this with an example. For instance, a Hindu converting to another religion will retain legal right to inherit the property, even if the property is divided after his/her conversion to another religion. However, the convert’s children born after such conversion will lose their right to inherit such property. This is because while deciding the inheritance rights, the religion of the person at the time of his/her birth has to be taken into account. Further, in case the children of the convert born after his/her conversion, reconvert to Hinduism before the succession opens (i.e., the owner of the property dies), then such children will become entitled to inherit.
“If an individual is adopted by another family, then he/she will lose his/her legal right over the properties held by the biological family. However, do note that such individuals will be entitled to properties held by the adoptive family,” says Pednekar.
Pednekar adds, “Once an individual is adopted not only does he/she lose legal right to inherit over the property of the biological family, even his/her children will lose legal right to inherit over the property of the biological family.”
However, there may be a situation where an individual can claim legal right to inherit the properties of both the biological family and adopted family. Kumar says, “An individual can receive his/her share in the property from biological family, provided the said property is partitioned before he/she is adopted. In such a scenario, he/she will receive his/her share of property from biological family as well as have right over the properties held by adopted family.”
If you have been convicted of the murder of the person from whom you are supposed to inherit property, then you and your children also lose the right to inherit the said property. Pednekar says, “As per the Hindu Succession Act,1956, if a person has been convicted of murder or abetment thereof by a court, of a person from whom he/she is entitled to inherit property, then such person and his/her successors will be disqualified from inheriting the property of the person murdered.”
- Via will
If the owner of the property makes a will and excludes a particular individual from receiving his/her share in the property, then that individual and his/her children will lose the legal right to inherit the property. However, a will can be challenged on certain grounds in the court such as the testator (maker of will) was under undue influence and coercion etc.
If the court finds the individual’s challenge justified, then he/she can receive his/her share in the property depending on the court’s judgement.
- Relinquishing your share
Pednekar says, “If an individual voluntarily relinquishes his/her share in a property, then his/her children also lose legal right over that property in the future. In case of HUF, the Karta cannot relinquish properties without the consent of the other coparceners. But a coparcener can relinquish his own share.”
- Family separation
There are instances where an individual demands certain sum of money from other legal heirs to relinquish his/her share in the property. This process is called family separation. “If the legal heirs on the demand of any particular legal heir, agree and pay amounts/transfer any property to such heir with an agreement that such legal heir shall not have any further rights in the remaining family property/ies, then such legal heir and his successors will lose legal rights over the remaining family property/ies,” says Pednekar.
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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