No matter however ancient is the concept of will or vasiyaat in India, it is still practiced only among the more gentry class of the country. Will is basically a legal declaration by a man with respect to inheritance of his self acquired property. But for several reasons like lack of awareness, complex family structure etc., people who die without making a will i.e. intestate is manifold times than the ones who die after making a proper will. It is for this reason that different laws have codified provisions as to how the property of a man would devolve in case he dies intestate.
Owing to the diversity, the law regarding intestate succession in India is different for different communities.
The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 governs the rules regarding intestate succession of property among Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. According to Section 8 of the Act, the property of the Hindu male dying intestate will devolve as following:
- Firstly, upon the heirs specified in Class I; Sons, Daughters, Mother Widow etc
- Secondly, if there are no heirs in Class I, then upon heirs in Class II; Father, Brother’s son, brother, sister etc
- Thirdly, if there are no heirs in Class II, then upon the agnates of the deceased; related wholly through male lineage
- Finally, if none of the above exists then upon the cognates of the deceased; not related wholly through male lineage
Among Muslims the law regarding intestate succession is administered by their personal Shariat Law. Muslim Law recognizes two types of heirs, the first being Sharers i.e. Husband, Wife, Son, Daughter etc and the second being Residuaries. Although the share of each of the heir fluctuates depending on the circumstances.
For other communities like Christians, Parsi and Jews the Indian Succession Act, 1925 comes into play. Part V of the act deals with intestate succession. The provisions under the act are much simple than other acts. If a man dies intestate then his widow and his children, male and female, all inherits equally.
Thus, the above laws ensure that no conflict as to inherence of property arises after the death of the person and also ensures distribution of property among all his heirs in the most justifiable manner. However, to avoid any further discord, lawyers always advise to make a will before the death of the person but laws of intestate succession are also adequate enough for apt disposition of property.