My grandfather died intestate. He had acquired some agricultural and non-agricultural property. His two sons—my father and uncle—got the agricultural land transferred in their names. My father did not sell his share. My father married a second time after my mother’s death. In which class of heirs will I be classified—class I or class II? In which class of heirs shall the widow and the four married daughters of my deceased brother be classified? Will I be given preference over heirs from the second marriage?
It is assumed that your father and his family are governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, that your father died without drawing a will and that your father’s mother isn’t alive.
Section 8 of the Act states that the property of a male Hindu who has died intestate shall devolve first on class I heirs; if there are no class I heirs, then on class II heirs. It also states how property will devolve if there are no class I or class II heirs.
Class I heirs include a son, daughter, widow, mother, son of a predeceased son, daughter of predeceased son, son of predeceased daughter, daughter of predeceased daughter, widow of a predeceased son, son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son, daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son, widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son, son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter, daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter, daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son. Therefore, you, your brother’s widow and his daughters are all class I heirs. The fact that your brother’s daughters are married shall have no bearing on their right to inherit. The widow and children from your father’s second marriage would also be class I heirs.
As per section 9, all class I heirs inherit the property simultaneously, subject to certain rules.
Rule 1: If your father’s wife from the second marriage is alive, then she will take one share.
Rule 2: You and any surviving sons and daughters from your father’s second marriage shall get one share each.
Rule 3: The heirs in the branch of each predeceased son or predeceased daughter of the intestate shall take one share among them. So, your brother’s widow and his four daughters will take one share among them.
Rule 4: Distribution of the share referred to in Rule 3 among the heirs in the branch of the predeceased son shall be made that his widow (or widows together) and the surviving sons and daughters get equal portions. Therefore, the one share that your brother’s widow and his four daughters get, will be divided equally among them.
Section 4(2) says that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to affect the provisions of any law, in force for the time being, providing for the prevention of fragmentation of agricultural holdings or for the fixation of ceilings or for devolution of tenancy rights for such holding.
Shabnum Kajiji, Partner, Wadia Ghandy & Co. Advocates, Solicitors and Notaries
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