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Business News/ Money / Personal Finance/  Can a live-in partner claim share in assets?
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Can a live-in partner claim share in assets?

The Supreme Court has , in the past few years, recognized the concept of live-in relationships, on a case-to-case basis and also enumerated certain rights of people in such relationships.

The rights of a female partner in a live-in relationship with respect to the estate of her male partner are still unclear and ambiguous (iStockphoto)Premium
The rights of a female partner in a live-in relationship with respect to the estate of her male partner are still unclear and ambiguous (iStockphoto)

My mother died almost 15 years ago. Since then, my father was living with his partner though they are not married. My father died recently, but has left a will distributing all his assets between my sister and me. My father’s partner is now challenging the will and claiming her share to the assets, besides the house where she and my father lived. What can be done in this situation?

—Name withheld on request

The Supreme Court has , in the past few years, recognized the concept of live-in relationships, on a case-to-case basis and also enumerated certain rights of people in such relationships. In certain cases, the apex court has ruled that children born to partners in live-in relationships can be considered legitimate. But there is no formal legislation on the same. Therefore, the rights of a female partner in a live-in relationship with respect to the estate of her male partner are still unclear and ambiguous.

Regarding the challenge to your father’s will by his live-in-partner, the onus of proving that the will is not genuine or whether she is entitled to participate and contest in a probate proceedings will have to be decided by the competent court.

You can contest her claim to any right to the house. However, the onus of proving the claim with corroborative evidence of a live-in partner will have to be probed by the court. It is here in the court proceedings, the live-in partner will have to justify and prove beyond reasonable doubt her claim for a share in the house property.

My wife and I are the joint owners of a property. However, my wife died intestate, leaving behind all assets to me and her sister and no lineal descendant. Can my wife’s sister be entitled to the assets of my wife even though she is a foreign national and a preferential heir of the intestate?

—Name withheld on request

There are two ways in which a person’s property devolves upon his legal heirs after his death. When a person dies without leaving behind a will, the laws of intestate succession will apply. When a person dies leaving behind a will, the property is distributed as per the bequest/ wishes made under the will i.e. testamentary succession to the named beneficiaries.

It is being assumed here that your wife left behind a Will. If the will is natural and genuine in the opinion of the court, then your wife’s sister is entitled to the assets bequeathed upon her , irrespective of whether she is a foreign national.

The term ‘preferential heir’ has not been defined or explained in any statute in India pertaining to succession. However, the Hindu Succession Act provides for class I and class II heirs, among whom the estate of the deceased shall devolve upon, in case he or she dies intestate. The class II heirs shall not be entitled to any part of the estate of the deceased in case any such class-I heir exists at that point of time. Therefore, class-I heirs have a preference over class-II heirs as per provisions of the Hindu Succession Act.

Aradhana Bhansali, Partner, Rajani Associates

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Published: 16 Jul 2023, 10:27 PM IST
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