Property rights of a wife after husband’s death

Property rights of a wife after husband's death

Many women are not clear about their rights in the property of their husbands. The rights of a wife in her husband’s property after his death depend upon:

  • The kind of joint ownership of husband and wife
  • nature of property of the husband – self-acquired or ancestral

Joint ownership

In case of property jointly acquired by both husband and wife during marriage, the nature of ownership determines the rights of a wife in the property after the death of the husband. The joint ownership can be: 

Tenancy in common

There is no right of survivorship. When one co-owner dies, his share goes to the legal heirs.

Joint Tenancy

When one co-owner dies, his share passes on to the surviving co-owners. 

Tenancy by entirety

Tenancy by entirety is a special kind of joint tenancy which takes place only between husband and wife. In this kind of ownership, both the spouses cannot pass their share in the property to a third person without the consent of others. This tenancy can be terminated either by mutual agreement, legal separation or by the death of one of the spouse.

Presumption of ownership:

Unless specifically stated in the document of property, the law presumes tenancy in common between the co-owners. However, in case of a married couple, the presumption is for the tenancy by entirety unless otherwise specified in the deed.

It is always advisable to disclose the nature of the ownership in the title document to avoid legal hassles later.

Read: Do grandchildren have a right to their grandfather’s property?

Distribution of property to wife and other legal heirs:

A. If the joint ownership is –

  • Tenancy by entirety or joint tenancy with survivorship-then after the death of the husband the property goes to the wife.
  • Tenancy in common – the legal heirs of the deceased husband will become co-owners and the share in the property will devolve as per provisions of Hindu Succession Act or personal laws or India Succession Act as applicable.

B. In case of joint property of husband and wife : If the fact is established that

  • the property is acquired by the husband but held in joint names- the entire property devolves among legal heirs including wife as per the applicable law.
  • the property is purchased by the wife with her earnings alone and held in joint names -the entire property belongs to wife.

the property is acquired by the husband and wife together with both having contributed towards the purchase, the property is divided as per the contributions made and then from the share of the husband, the wife will get her share as a legal heir as per applicable law.

Read: Can a father give his property to one son?

Self-acquired and ancestral property:

  • Under Hindu Law:  the wife has a right to inherit the property of her husband only after his death if he dies intestate. Hindu Succession Act, 1956 describes legal heirs of a male dying intestate and the wife is included in the Class I heirs, and she inherits equally with other legal heirs.

           If the property is:

Self-acquired-    If husband dies intestate, wife inherits as Class I heir

Ancestral –     Wife is entitled to get a share out of the share of her husband’s property, but she has no right to claim partition. She gets her share as class I legal heir when the partition of the ancestral property is affected.

Read: Division of property between brother and sister after father’s death

For people of faiths other than Hindus– the succession to property is governed by personal laws or The Indian Succession Act.

  • In the case of Christians, the property is considered as self-acquired despite the mode of acquisition and wife has a right to the property of deceased husband along with other legal heirs.
  • Muslim law also recognises the right of the wife in the property of the deceased husband – generally one-fourth of the property if no children and one eighth if children are there.

Division of property between brother and sister after father’s death

Division of property between brother and sister after father death

Under Hindu Law, brother and sister are at par when it comes to the devolution of property of a father dying intestate.

When a Hindu male dies intestate (without leaving a will), his property devolves upon the legal heirs as per Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. The legal heirs are as follows:

  • Class I heirs
  • Class II heirs (if no one in class I)
  • Agnates (if no one in class II)
  • Cognates (if no one in agnates)

Class I heirs as mentioned in the Schedule of the Act are:

  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Widow
  • Mother
  • Son of a pre-deceased son
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son
  • Son of a pre-deceased daughter
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased daughter
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son
  • Son of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son
  • Daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son
  • Widow of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son
  • Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
  • Daughter of a deceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
  • Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter
  • Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son

There are 16 class I heirs. Eleven are females, and 5 are males.

Rules for distribution of property among brother and sister (both are class I heirs):

  • Class I heirs get their share simultaneously and to the exclusion of others.As per the rules, son and daughter (brother and sister) are entitled to equal share in the property.

e.g. a father dies leaving behind a mother, a widow and one son and two daughters, his property would be divided into five equal parts, and each of these legal heirs will get one-fifth share.

Stepson or stepdaughter: Daughter and son must be natural or adopted children. Stepchildren are not included in the definition of son and daughter under the Act.

  • Children of predeceased son or daughter will take between them one share, e.g. If the daughter is predeceased and has two children, then in the above example, the property is divided into five parts, and one-fifth share of the deceased daughter will be shared further by these two children equally.

Ancestral or self-acquired property

The daughter (sister) has equal right as a son (brother) in the ancestral as well as the self-acquired property of the father.

Under Hindu law, there is a concept of coparcenary. It is a small unit within a joint Hindu family and consists of male lineal descendants’ of four generations with the eldest male member as the head and his male lineal descendants as coparceners. After the amendment of 2005 in the Act, the daughters are considered as coparceners and have equal right in the ancestral property as a son.

Marital Status: Marital Status of the daughter (sister) makes no difference.

Date of birth of a daughter (sister): The Amendment of 2005 came into effect on 09.09.2005. The daughters born before or after this date are considered as coparceners.

If the daughter is not living on 09.09.2005, her children are entitled to get a share in ancestral property.

If the father is not living on 09.09.2005, the daughter cannot seek partition of ancestral property.

Testamentary succession: However, in case of self-acquired property of the father, he can make a will of the same as per his desire, and the property bequeaths to the person named in the will.

In the case of ancestral property, a Will can be made by a father once he has acquired his share.

Can a father give his property to one son?

Can a father give his property to one son

The property has most of the time been a bone of contention among the family members. Between a father and his children, the distribution of property can cause problems if the father has to make choices and distribution is not equal. It is always advisable to get timely legal advice in property matters and place all documents in order.

A father’s right to deal with his property has to be exercised as per the provisions of law:

  • Statutory laws
  • Personal laws

If the father has self-acquired property, he is free to deal with it as his children have no right to claim it during his lifetime. If he dies intestate (without leaving a will behind), all children are entitled to get it as legal heirs.

However, if the property is ancestral he cannot deal with it freely as per his wish as all his children have a share in that property and his sons can claim partition of the same.

Read: Lawyer Nidhi Singh interview on Asian Voice

What is self-acquired property?

A property acquired by a person:

  • Purchased with own resources
  • As a gift
  • Through a testamentary document, e.g. will
  • Received as a legal heir – i.e. share of ancestral property received after partition or share of any other property acquired as a legal heir.
  • When a Hindu dies intestate, his property devolves as per Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act, and such property which comes in the hands of a legal heir becomes his self acquired property.

Distribution of self-acquired property of a father:

  • A father is within his rights to give the self-acquired -property to his one son to the exclusion of other children.
  • During his lifetime, his children have no right to claim it. He can pass the same to his one son by gift or by will.
  • However, if another son has contributed towards the purchase of self-acquired property of the father and he can prove his contribution, he has a right in the said property. Then in such a situation, a father cannot pass the self-acquired property to one son excluding the son who has contributed.

What is the ancestral property?

  • A property which has passed on undivided up to four generations of male lineage is called ancestral property. The property should be four generations old. A person inherits the property as a descendant.
  • The property inherited from father, grandfather or great grandfather becomes ancestral property.
  • The property inherited from mother, uncle, grandmother or any other relative is not ancestral property.
  • The property received as a gift or through a will is not ancestral.

Distribution of ancestral property of a father:

  • In an ancestral property, all the sons have a right by birth and therefore, the father cannot give the ancestral property to one son to the exclusion of others. After amendment of 2005 in the Hindu Succession Act, even daughters are coparceners and have a right in the ancestral property.
  • A father cannot freely give the ancestral property to one son. In Hindu law, the ancestral property can be gifted only under certain situations like distress or for pious reasons. Otherwise, the ancestral property cannot be given away to one child to the exclusion of all others.

For Muslim and Christians, there is no concept of ancestral property. The property can be given to one son as per the limit permitted under personal law for Muslims.

For Christians, the property is considered as self-acquired despite mode of acquisition and rights are governed as per the Indian Succession Act, 1925.

Do grandchildren have a right to their grandfather’s property?

Do grandchildren have a right to their grandfather’s property

Property rights are determined as per personal and statutory laws.

Hindu Law:

Under Hindu law, before deciding the question of the right of grandchildren in the property of grandfather, it is important to know the nature of the property in the hands of the grandfather – whether ancestral or self-acquired.

Ancestral Property:

It is the property which is inherited by a person from his father, grandfather and great grandfather. The property must have passed undivided up to four generations.  Property is divided as per stripes and not as per capita, i.e. share of each generation is determined first then the successive generations divide among themselves the share of their  predecessor generation. 

Hindu law recognises the concept of coparceners. It is a small unit within a joint Hindu family and consists of male lineal descendants’ of four generations. After the amendment of 2005 in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, daughters are also coparceners along with sons.

Grandchildren – birthright in ancestral property

In the ancestral property (coparcenary property), the coparcener has a birthright. If the grandchildren are coparceners, they have a birthright in the ancestral property of the grandfather. They have a right along with all other coparceners, and therefore, they are entitled to get their share only. They can demand partition and file a suit for declaration and partition.

After the amendment of 2005, when a Hindu having an interest in the ancestral property dies intestate, his interest will devolve as per succession rule provided in Section 8 of the 1956 Act.

Self-acquired property: It is the property which a person:

  • Purchases from his own income/resources
  • A share of property acquired as a result of partition in ancestral property
  • Receives as a gift
  • Acquires as a legal heir through a testamentary document, e.g. Will

A person has absolute right over his self-acquired property and can dispose of it off as he pleases.

Grandchildren have no birthright in the self-acquired property of the grandfather. As per Hindu Succession Act, 1956, the self-acquired property of a Hindu male dying intestate devolves by succession, among the legal heirs as follows:

  • Class I heirs
  • Class II heirs (if no one in class I)
  • Agnates (if no one in class II)
  • Cognates (if no one in agnates)

( List of all the heirs is provided in the schedule of the Act )

Read: Property rights of daughters Under Hindu Law in India

The grandfather has absolute right to deal with the self-acquired property as he desires. If the Grandfather has made a will, the property bequeathes to the person named in the will.

If the grandfather dies intestate, the property devolves as per rule of succession provide in Section 8 of 1956, Act. Grandchildren will not get any share in the self-acquired property of the grandfather as grandchildren are not in Class I heirs. The father, i.e. son of the grandfather who is Class I heir gets the share.

However, if the father had already died before the death of the grandfather, then the grandchildren become entitled to the share in the self-acquired property as children of the predeceased son as they are now included in class I heirs as children of predeceased son/daughter and they inherit equally as other class I heirs.

Muslim Law:

There is no concept of joint family property in Muslim Law. The right of inheritance opens on the death of the person, and the nearer relatives are preferred over, the remoter. If the father is alive at the time of the death of the grandfather, he will get the property and not the grandchildren.

How to Claim Ancestral Property in India?

How to Claim Ancestral Property in India

Ancestral property can be defined in general parlance as the property, which has been passed on from one generation to another. There are two major conditions that a property has to fulfill in order to be an ancestral property these are as follows –

  • The property has to be four generations old at the least;
  • The same shouldn’t have been partitioned or divided into the past three generations.

Inheritance situations differ in matters of self-acquired property and ancestral property. Self-acquired property is the property that individual purchases out of one’s own income. In the case of self-acquired property, the owner can take away your share in the same. For instance, if your father has purchased a property out of his own money, he can exclude you from its inheritance. However, in the case of ancestral property, ones share cannot be taken away no matter what the situation.

The claim on an ancestral property comes through the act of birth. However, this claim into the ancestral property and the share that is given to each individual against his claim is determined by the successive generation. They decide the respective shares.

If the property is inherited from your mother, uncle, brother or grandmother, it is not ancestral property.

The partition of an ancestral property can be made by a Partition Notice or a Declaration to Separate, Partition Agreement. The partition can also be carried out through arbitration or through suits. An example of partition being, if the property is to be divided amongst five people, they will receive equal shares in the property i.e. 1/5th share each. With the development of the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, daughters too can have a share in the property. If denied a share in the property, a legal notice should be sent by the aggrieved to the erring party. Filing a suit for partition and contesting the same in court can also help in claiming the share. In case the property has been sold off without your consent, it is suggested that the buyer should also be added to a party and a suit should be filed to claim ones share.