As the name suggests, a will is a declaration that expresses the desires or wants of a person with relation to his property and estate and also provides for its transfer upon his/her death. In ordinary language, succession means inheritance. When a person dies, inheritance or succession follows.
The Hindu Succession Act is the act which states the rules and procedures relating to inheritance applicable to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists etc. Majority of India follows the Hindu Succession Act, whereas for Muslims Sharia law is prevalent in India. The Indian Succession Act which covers Christians as well as those people who are not covered under the Hindu Succession Act and Sharia Law.
Succession is a very complex process in a diverse and dynamic country like India. There are two types of Succession:
- Testamentary succession: It is a type of succession in which the deceased had executed a will, and the property is divided as per the execution of the will.
- Intestate succession: In India, as per the provisions of Indian Succession Act, 1925 if one dies without writing a valid will, he is said to be died intestate and his property will be distributed as per the provisions of the succession law applicable to him.
A person is said to die intestate when he/she dies without making a will that means without disposing off his/her property to the heirs. Sometimes, disposition under the will is also not possible on account of the illegal bequest or invalid bequest. Intestacy can either be total or partial.
Under the circumstances, when a person dies intestate, the deceased’s assets are distributed among the heirs as per the provisions of the Indian Succession Act. The distribution or vesting of the assets takes place according to the relevant personal laws. There are situations, when there is more than one heir, thus giving rise to complexities and difficulties.
Intestate Succession among Hindus
The laws relating to intestate succession among Hindus was amended and consolidated by the Hindu Succession Act passed in the year 1956. The law is applied to all the persons who practise religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism. In the year, 2005, the act was further amended. The act contains provisions related to the situation where an individual dies without making a will.
Below mentioned are the claims that can be made when a male dies without making a will.
1st Claimant: They are known as the Class I legal heir, which includes the mother, wife and children of the deceased. All of them have equal rights over the assets. In case, any child of the deceased is no more than the property is given to the child and wife of the deceased child.
2nd Claimant: When there is no one available from class I legal heirs, then the class II legal heir comes into the picture. They are father, sibling, living children’s grandchildren, sibling’s children of the deceased.
3rd Claimant: When class I legal heirs and class II legal heirs are absent then the property can be claimed by the Agnates. They are defined as the distant blood relatives of father’s side, also known as Male Lineage.
4th Claimant: When all the three levels of the class heir are absent, then the property is given to the Cognates. Cognates are the ones who are blood relatives of the mother’s side, also known as Female Lineage.
Below mentioned are the claims that can be made when a female dies without making a will.
1st Claimants: The first claimants of the deceased female are the children and the husband. They can divide the property among them equally.
2nd Claimants: When the class I heirs are not available; the claim is made by the heirs of the husband.
3rd Claimants: In the absence of 1st and 2nd claimants, the mother and father of the deceased can make a claim.
4th Claimants: There are chances when 3rd claimants are not there to claim property, and therefore the heir of the father gets the property.
5th Claimants: At the last, to opt for the property of the deceased, the claim is given to the heir of the mother.
There are circumstances when an intestate dies, and no claimants are available. In such a situation, the property is devolved to the State Government by following the procedure of the law.
Where there’s Covid, there’s Will
Due to the recent outbreak of Covid-19 across the country and the lockdown imposed by the Central Government, it is noticed that the number of request for drafting wills had increased tremendously. The older people and rich people have started thinking to execute their wills in the amid fear of Coronavirus. People have started considering that dying after executing a will is far better than dying intestate, for the sake of the family as well as the society.
In ancient times, executing a will was considered a taboo in India. However, as the time has passed, people have realised the importance and need of executing a will as it not only saves a lot of time while dividing the property but also helps to divide the property without any conflicts between the family, it is recommended that when a person wants to execute his/her will, they should always consult a legal person whom they trust. Legal advice in such a matter is essential. Writing a will, once considered a somewhat morbid exercise, is now a must-do for India’s rich as well as the middle class.