Inheritance issues can threaten to create divides that are unimaginable and unmanageable! We frequently have clients coming to us with these problems, and we endeavour to get fair deals for all involved.

The Hindi Succession Act, 1956 has been enacted to evolve a uniform system of property inheritance. The Act applies to intestate succession. The Act has been amended to keep pace with changing social requirements.

There is a list of heirs provided in the Schedule of the Act. These heirs are entitled to intestate succession. The Act applies to all those who are Hindu as per the definition is given in the Act. It does not apply to those who are Muslim, Christian, Parsi and Jew by religion.

All the heirs who are entitled to inherit under the Act have a right to succeed intestate succession. Many people come to us for queries in property inheritance. Some of the frequently asked questions are:

1. What does intestate mean?

Intestate means a person who has not made any will of his property. Even if a will has been made, but it is not capable of taking effect, it is equivalent to a person dying intestate.

2. Who is an heir?

As defined in the Act, an heir is any person, male or female who is entitled to succeed to the property of an interstate.

3. What is the order of succession, if any?

Under the Hindu Succession Act, inheritance of property takes place as follows:

A. In case of a male dying intestate, the order of succession is:

  • Class I heirs
  • Class II heirs ( if no heir in Class I)
  • Agnates (if no heir in Class I and Class II)
  • Cognates (If no heir in Class I, Class II and Agnates)

B. In case of a female dying intestate, the order of succession is:      

  • Sons and daughters (if predeceased, their children) and husband
  • Heirs of husband
  • Mother and father
  • Heirs of father
  • Heirs of mother

4. Is there any disqualification, in property inheritance under Hindu Succession Act?

Yes, there are certain disqualifications provided in the act which bars a legal heir from inheriting the property. These are:

  • Murderer: A person who commits murder or abets the commission of murder is disqualified from inheriting the property of:
  1. The person murdered
  2. Any other property to which he becomes entitled to succeed as a result of murder

For the disqualification, Commission of Murder and Abetment (assisting) of murder stand on the same footing.

  • Conversion: A Hindu, who converts to another religion, he is not disqualified. His children who are born after his conversion and their descendants are disqualified. The rule applies only if they are converts when the succession opens.

Any disease, defect or deformity in the person is not a disqualification. It will not disentitle him for property inheritance under the Hindu Succession Act.

5. Can a widow inherit after remarriage?

Yes, widow remarriage is no bar under the Act, to inherit her deceased husband’s property.

6. Can a stepson inherit under the Act?

No, the expression “son” in Hindu Succession Act does not include stepson. It includes an adopted son.

All legal heirs as described in the Schedule of the Hindu Succession Act are entitled to inherit. There is a specific mention of disqualifications in the Act. These disqualifications will disentitle an heir for property inheritance.