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Class I heirs get Hindu male’s property if he died intestate

If there are no class I heirs, then the estate in question devolve on the class II heirs

My maternal uncle, who was a bachelor, died without a Will. He is survived by four brothers and two sisters. One of the brothers died after his death. My uncle had a lot of shares in physical form. It has come to our notice that the brothers are selling the shares without informing my mother and aunt. Do my mother and her sister have a legal right on the shares held by my deceased uncle? Can my uncles sell the shares without the consent of the two sisters? How do the two sisters ensure that the sale proceeds that they are entitled to are given to them without court intervention?

—Anuradha

In order to respond to your queries, we are assuming that your uncle who passed away and was the holder of the shares, was a Hindu and, therefore, succession to his estate would be governed by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

Section 8 of the Act lays down the general rules of succession in the case of Hindu males who have died intestate and inter-alia states that the property of such a male Hindu shall devolve firstly, upon the heirs of the deceased, being class I heirs. And secondly, if there are no class I heirs, then upon the class II heirs. This section also states how property will devolve if there are neither class I nor class II heirs.

Class I heirs take an equal share and simultaneously. If there are no class I heirs, then the estate in question devolve on the class II heirs.

In your case, since your uncle did not have any class I heirs who survived him at the time of his death and if your uncle’s father was also not alive at that time, then his brothers and sisters (assuming he doesn’t have step-brothers or step-sisters) will inherit his estate simultaneously and in equal shares.

However, given that the estate comprises of physical shares, certain provisions of the Companies Act would also have to be kept in mind.

As per the applicable provisions, on the death of a joint holder of shares in a company, the surviving joint holder(s) shall be the only person(s) recognized by the company as having any title to the deceased joint holder’s interest in the shares.

Further, a nominee becomes entitled to the interest in the shares upon the event of death of all the joint holders.

Only in the event that there is no nominee or if the nominee has pre-deceased the original holder(s), then upon the death of the last surviving joint holder and as per the laws of succession in India, a beneficiary under the Will of the last surviving joint holder, if any, will be entitled to the interest in the shares and if the last surviving joint holder had died intestate (without having drawn up a Will), then his legal heirs will be entitled to the interest in the shares.

Therefore in the present case, you will have to ascertain whether the shares were held by your uncle in his sole name or jointly with any of his other siblings (if held jointly with any other sibling, then the companies in question would recognize only that sibling as the legal owners of the shares); the shares were held by your uncle in his sole name and he had nominated one of his siblings as a nominee (in which case the companies in question would recognize only that nominee sibling as the legal owners of the shares); or the shares were held by your uncle in his sole name and he had not nominated anyone.

After ascertaining the above, your mother and aunt can write to the companies in question, stating the factual position and that the companies should not entertain any claims from your uncles until such time that instructions are given jointly by all the surviving siblings. However, depending on the factual position, as stated above, the companies in question may or may not entertain such a request.

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