Celebrating Women’s Day: Understanding Property Rights for Women

womens day

Women have been subject to bias in property matters. Woman’s day is an opportunity to ponder over such inequalities and initiate measures for empowering women about their property rights.

Today women are financially independent. Our legal system recognizes their rights in the property as independent owners. The Government has given many relaxations like lower stamp duty rates, to encourage women ownership.  

In India various factors govern the rights of a woman:

  • Marital status
  • Property is ancestral, inherited or self-acquired
  • Property is parental or belongs to her in-laws or husband
  • Personal laws applicable to a woman
  • Rights of woman as a daughter, wife or mother

Read More: Indian Women’s Right to Property

Property Rights of Women as daughter, mother, wife:

Hindu Law:

  • A daughter is a coparcener. She has equal rights in the ancestral property of her father, as her brother, even if she is married.
  • As a wife, a woman has equal right in the property of her husband as other legal heirs.
  • A daughter in law has no right in the property of her father in law till the time her husband is alive. After the husband’s death, she gets a right in the share which her husband is entitled to get.
  • A woman who gets the property by any mode: gift, Will or inheritance, she becomes the absolute owner and is free to deal with it.
  • In the case of intestate succession, a widow has equal right in the property of her husband as her children. A widowed mother also has an equal share in the property of her son as other legal heirs.
  • The wife from the second marriage has the same rights in the property of her husband as the first wife. The second marriage must be valid under the law. 
  • The children (daughter and son) of the second wife are treated at par with the children of the first wife to inherit from the self-acquired property of their father. They do not get right in the ancestral property. 
  • The right of women in agriculture land needs a separate mention. These rights depend upon customary practices and personal laws. After the amendment of 2005 in the Hindu Succession Act, women are at par with men in the inheritance of agriculture land. But some States do not follow the amendment, and the bias continues.

Read More: Property Rights of Women as per Hindu Law

Muslim Law:

Property rights under Muslim Law are based on personal laws and customs. If a Muslim woman inherits property, she becomes the absolute owner of her share. In inheritance, she gets half the share of what male heir gets. 

If a Muslim woman wants to make a Will of her property, she cannot give away more than one-third share of her property, and if her husband is the only heir, she can give two-third share by Will. 

Other faiths:

For faiths other than Muslims and Hindus, the property rights of woman are mostly fair in terms of gender divisions.

Read More: When can or can’t a daughter stake a claim in her fathers’ property

Common frauds in the transfer of properties

Common frauds

Perception is – Where there is property, there is a fraud!  Possibly because, there is a lack of transparency in the processes, and the documentation is not simple. Also, in most cases, there is a casual approach to property management issues.

Here’s a glimpse of what the transfer of property entails, the potential frauds therein, and the solutions

Transfer of Property:

  • The transfer of property is an act by which the owner of the property (transferor) transfers the ownership rights in the property to another person (transferee)
  • Property can be transferred in several ways like Gift, Will (Inheritance), Sale, Partition or Relinquishment of share in case of co-owners.  
  • Property is transferred along with the liabilities attached to it. But it should be with the consent and knowledge of the transferee. E.g. in case of Gift, the donee must accept the gifted property with the liabilities if there are any.
  • There can be some agreement or adjustment between the transferor and the transferee about liabilities. It is generally there in case of inheritance, partition or relinquishment.  

Also Read: Property rights of a son on mother’s self-earned property – Issues and the Law

Fraudulent transfer and frauds:

  • When the transferor transfers the property by concealing the facts of liabilities/defect in property from the transferee intentionally, it is called fraudulent transfer. 

Some of the common frauds committed while transferring the property are:

  1. Fake title: The title deed is fraudulent. The person presenting himself as the owner is not the owner. Property papers are false and forged. The title deed can be any document which depicts the title of the owner in the property. 
  2. Multiple Registrations: The property transferred (sold) has got multiple registrations. The property is sold by the owner to many buyers fraudulently. The owner grabbed the money from all the different buyers and absconded. All the different buyers have to fight legal battle to establish their ownership.
  3.  Pre-mortgaged property: It happens a lot of time that the seller/transferor has already mortgaged the property sold/ transferred with a bank to avail loan against it. Thus the property is not free from encumbrances. The fact is not revealed to the buyer, and the buyer loses his hard-earned money if he purchases the property without exercising due diligence.
  4. Encroached property: The property transferred has been constructed on an encroached land. The actual land belonged to Government or another party, but the person who has sold the property to the buyer never disclosed the same. The transferee has to fight legal battles later.
  5. Permissions not obtained: Properties like those in a Registered Society or Housing Board flats require special approval from the Concerned Authorities before transfer. In some cases, the transfer is not even permissible. But the people manage to defraud the transferee and transfer such properties without obtaining the necessary permission. 
  6. Mismatch of location and area: The fraudsters transfer the property by mentioning the wrong location. The area (measurement) mentioned is also not correct. 
  7. The person not authorized to transfer: (fake GPA or misuse of GPA): A person may transfer the property which he is not authorized to transfer. The power of attorney holder misuses GPA and transfers the property in violation of the terms of the same. Hence he cheats both the actual owner and the transferee. Sometimes the GPA is a fake document.
  8. Encumbrances over the property: There are various kinds of encumbrances affecting the value of the property. These can be in the form of mortgage, lien, litigation (disputed property), unpaid charges (utility charges). The transferor of the property can cheat the transferee by not disclosing the same.

Also Read: The married daughters’ right in mother’s self-acquired property

The way out – Key to avoid the frauds:

  • Be alert
  • Take timely precautions
  • Take proper legal advice
  • Scrutinize the documents

Certain precautions will enable the transferee to avoid suspicious transactions:

  • Demand the original property papers for verification.
  • It is essential to check for the payment of dues. Verify the same from the respective Authorities, e.g. office of Municipal Corporation. It is vital to check if the transferor has paid the dues.
  • Visit the offices of local authorities to check out for the encumbrances on the property. The transferor must clear any loan availed by mortgaging the property.
  • If the Power of Attorney holder transfers the property, it is significant to verify its terms to ensure that there is a right to transfer the property.

Property rights of a son on mother’s self-earned property – Issues and the Law

Property rights of a son on mother’s self-earned property

There has been such a massive change in the social milieu in our country that now issues arise regarding a mother’s property too – reflective of the fact that women have shares in the family property now.

In further lines of succession of property owned by a woman, a son can claim a share in his mother’s self-earned property only if the mother wants. But if the mother dies intestate, the issue of claim arises.

Distribution of property among family members of the deceased when the person has died intestate has always been a challenging task.  The issue becomes more complicated when the property consists of both ancestral and self-earned property.

Also Read: The married daughters’ right in mother’s self-acquired property

Self-earned or Self-acquired property refers to the property:

  • made by a person by his resources or
  • which he has inherited under the law of succession or
  • acquired through Will or
  • which has come to him after partition.

How an individual deals with self-earned property:

  • The Law gives an individual the full right to deal with the self-earned property in any manner that he pleases; whether it is transferring the property by way of gift, sale or a Will.
  • A person can dispose of the self-earned property to the exclusion of his heirs. The entire property can be gifted to a third person/stranger.
  • No legal heir can claim any right over the said property till the time the owner of the property is alive.
  • The legal heirs can exert their right only if the owner dies intestate.

Personal and Statutory Laws governing property rights:

The right of the children in the property of their mother largely depends upon the personal law and statutory law governing such rights.

In India, the personal laws are related mostly to the religion of the person.  For Hindus, Muslims and persons of other faiths, there are different personal laws.

 Under Hindu Law, a woman is the absolute owner of the property which she acquires by any means: gift, will, inheritance. This property becomes her self- acquired/self-earned property. She can choose to transfer the entire property to any person other than her husband and her children.

Also Read: Gift Deed- Implications, Interpretations and Information

Can a son claim on the self-earned property of his mother?

During the lifetime of the mother, a son cannot claim any share in her self-acquired property.  

However, if a Hindu female (mother) dies intestate, the property devolves among legal heirs as per the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act. The legal heirs are

  • Sons Daughters (if predeceased, their children) Husband

The children and husband of the deceased woman (mother) have equal inheritance rights.  Other legal heirs follow if the first order is missing, i.e. a woman dies leaving no children, no grandchildren and no husband, then the legal heirs are:-

  • Mother and fatherHeirs of fatherHeirs of mother

In the case of Hindus,

  • A son can, therefore, claim a right in the self-earned property of his mother if the mother has died intestate.
  • Both son and daughter have equal rights.
  • Even the share of ancestral property falling to the mother after the partition of the property becomes her absolute property and is treated as her self- acquired property.

For Muslim mothers,

  • It is the personal laws which govern the right of her son in the self-earned property.
  • Under Muslim law also, a woman becomes the absolute owner of the property which she has acquired by any means.
  • Generally, there is no distinction like the ancestral or self-acquired property under Muslim Law.
  • The children of a Muslim mother cannot claim any right during her lifetime.  Inheritance opens only on the death of the person.

Also Read: Can NRIs buy property jointly with resident Indian?

For persons of other faiths, the right of the children in the property of the mother is governed by the Indian Succession Act. The relatives of the woman and her children are given preference over her husband and his relatives.

The issue of a son’s claim would therefore largely depend on the personal laws governing that particular segment and the line of succession.

The married daughters’ right in mother’s self-acquired property

Daughter's Share The married daughters' right in mother's self-acquired property

For a long time, the concept of succession or inheritance of property has been synonymous with how and what the son will get. Right of a son in the property of his father has always been a matter of concern and discussion. 

In a society which primarily rests on the patriarchal style of relationships, it is very heartening and interesting when people seek to understand or to discuss a question relating to the right of a woman (daughter) in the property of her mother. That’s one sure sign that we have progressed in the sphere of rights of woman.

Also Read: Division of Property Among Daughters and Daughters-In-Law

A woman, thankfully, is viewed as the absolute owner of her property.

  • She has the right to deal with her property in any manner.
  • As a necessary corollary to the above, we have moved a step further and also recognize the rights of the children in the property of their mother.
  • Daughters, even though married, have the right to inherit the property of their mother.  

Remember,

  • Law has always recognised a distinction between self-acquired and ancestral property.
  • It is there primarily to decide inheritance issues.
  • Under Hindu Law, a mother becomes the absolute owner of the property – whether she gets it through a Will or as a gift or by any other means. It becomes a self-acquired property for her.  
  • If the mother has inherited ancestral property from her father (i.e. maternal grandfather of her children), although the property is ancestral, it becomes the self-acquired property of the mother. 
  • Self-acquired property of a person can be disposed of by the person in any manner.
  • No legal heir has any right over such property during the lifetime of the person.
  • It is only if the person has died intestate; the question of right in his self-acquired property arises.
  • In the case of intestate succession, the devolution of property is governed by statutory or personal laws. For persons of Hindu faith, the relevant provision of law is found in the Hindu Succession Act. 
  • During the lifetime of the mother, married daughter has no right to seek her property.

Under Hindu Law, daughters have equal rights as sons in the property of their mother.

Also Read: Daughters have equal shares in Ancestral Property, even though they were born before enactment of the Hindu Succession Act – A Judgement by Supreme Court

For right in the self-acquired property of a mother, it is essential to understand two things:

  • All the property acquired by a woman becomes self-acquired property.
  • Self-acquired property can be disposed of in any manner.
  • Any right in the self-acquired property arises whenever the person dies intestate

If a Hindu mother dies intestate, the property gets devolved as per the Hindu Succession Act.

The Act says that the property of a woman gets devolved to 

  • her children
  • the children of predeceased children 
  • her husband 

All these three legal heirs inherit equally.

There is no distinction in the Act for married or unmarried daughters. Thus whether the daughter is married or unmarried, she gets equal rights in the self-acquired property of her mother along with her brother and husband of the deceased woman. 

Read Also: Property Rights of Indian Daughters

The property of a mother also includes any share of the mother in her father’s ancestral property. Once this property is partitioned and the mother gets her share, the share becomes self-acquired property. Even if the mother has died before partition, her children can claim this share later after partition. 

In the eyes of the law, Married daughters can enforce their right by filing a suit in the court for devolution of property as per the Hindu Succession Act.

Rights on mother’s property after her death

Who inherits mother's property?

Right to property is governed by personal and statutory laws.

Once the mother (a woman) acquires any property through will or gift or by inheritance or it a self-acquired property, she becomes the absolute owner of the same. 

Under Hindu Law, the property of a mother devolves as per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (the Act). The Act applies to intestate succession.

Read More: Property rights of a wife after husband’s death

According to Section 15 of the Act, the following persons inherit a woman’s property after her death:

  • Her children
  • Children of predeceased children
  • Husband
  • Mother  and Father of the deceased mother
  • Heirs of husband
  • Heirs of father and mother

The order of preferences is as follows:

  • Firstly, the children, children of predeceased children and husband
  • Secondly, heirs of the husband
  • Thirdly, her mother and father
  • Fourthly, heirs of her father
  • Lastly, heirs of her mother

Thus if a mother dies intestate, under Hindu law, her children, children of predeceased children and her husband have an equal right to the property. In their absence, the property is inherited by other heirs as per order of preference.

Right to mother’s property also includes right to the share of the mother in her father’s property, and children of a predeceased mother have a right to claim the  deceased mother’s share in  the property of her father: –

Read More: Land Kabza- What to do?

After amendment of the 1956 Act in the year 2005, daughters are coparceners and have equal rights as a son, in the property of their father. Thus if a daughter (who is a mother also) dies before the partition of her father’s ancestral property, the children of such pre-deceased daughter have a right in the ancestral property of their maternal grandfather and can claim partition.

However, during the lifetime of the mother, only the mother has a right to claim her share in this property of her father and as a son or daughter of such mother, the person can file a suit for partition only through power of attorney executed by mother in favour of her children.

In case of self acquired property of the father (i.e. maternal grandfather), if such father dies intestate, the son/daughter of predeceased daughter of such father are included in Class I heirs given in the schedule of the 1956 Act and have a right to claim their share.

After the partition of property in which a woman (mother) has a share, she becomes the absolute owner of her share:

Read More: Settlement deed between brother and sister residing abroad

Once the share of a daughter has been transferred to her after partition of the property of her father, she becomes the absolute owner of her share. 

If a mother makes a will, the property bequeaths as per the will, and if the mother dies intestate, the laws of inheritance are applied as per the 1956 Act.

Distribution of the mother’s property between her son and married daughter:

Married daughter has equal right in the property of her mother as the son, and in case the mother dies intestate, the married daughter inherits her share equally with the son as per the Act of 1956.

Under Muslim Law, since the law is not codified, rights on the property of the mother are governed by personal laws.

For faiths other than Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Muslims, devolution of mother’s property after her death is governed by India Succession Act, 1925. Generally, relatives of mother inherit and have priority over her husband and husband’s relatives.