The transfer of assets of a person is usually done according to their will. The will becomes the controlling factor of how the distribution is to take place. This is known as testamentary succession. In the case where a deceased person fails to bequeath his/her properties, the succession becomes intestate and the law of intestate succession controls the situation.
This law in India is applicable to people on the basis of their religion. The ratio of distribution and the rightful heirs vary according to the person’s religion and each religion has different laws of succession. This difference in laws might be difficult to understand, so we will take a look at them as briefly as possible.
When there is no written will by the deceased, people belonging to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism are guided under the Hindu Succession Act, Muslims are governed by the Muslim Law and Christians by the Indian Succession Act.
The Hindu Succession Act states different laws in the case of the death of a male and the death of a female.
In this case, the legal heirs of the deceased are divided into two classes
If Class 1 heirs are absent, the relatives of the deceased are classified into hierarchical categories. If any member of a higher category is present, the inheritance goes to the members of that category. The lower categories are considered only when no member of the higher category is present.
If the deceased was married, the hierarchy is as follows
If the deceased was unmarried, the hierarchy is as follows
If the deceased was married, the husband, sons and daughters become her legal heirs. If the children are not alive, the grandchildren also become heirs.
If the deceased was unmarried, her mother and father earn the right to her properties.
If the above-mentioned people are absent, the properties of the deceased are divided on the basis of their acquisition and each category belongs to different heirs.
If the property is self-acquired, the hierarchy is as follows
If the property is inherited from her parents, the hierarchy is as follows
Some general rules in the Hindu Succession Act are
The law constitutes four sources of Islamic law
Some general rules under the Muslim Law of Succession are
Rule of Distribution Under the Sunni Law (Per Capita Distribution)
There is also the Shia law which divides the heirs into blood relations and heirs by marriage. The classification of sharers, residuary and distant kindred under Muslim Law are also very extensive and elaborate.
If a Christian dies without leaving a will, the distribution of properties is carried out as per the Indian Succession Act.
As you can see, the laws of inheritance in the case of the absence of a will is extremely complex and can be difficult to follow, especially if there are many claims to the assets.
There are also a lot more details to each law than what has been explained above. A lawyer’s presence, therefore, becomes a very crucial thing in order to avoid clashes.
Also read: What Is an Inheritance and Who Is an Heir?