My wife had inherited a house from her parents. We never lived in it and it was put on rent. She passed away three years ago without writing a Will. I have three daughters. I want that property to go to one of them. Do I have the right to do that? If not, what can be done?
It is assumed that you are a Hindu by religion and accordingly, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 is applicable in this instant case. Your wife passed away intestate, i.e., died without writing a Will, leaving behind her property. The succession of such properties are governed by Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
As per the Act, the properties of a deceased female will go in equal shares to her class 1 legal heirs. Section 15(1) of the Act provides that the daughters, sons and husband of a deceased female are her class 1 legal heirs.
It is assumed that your wife is survived by you (in the capacity of her husband) and three daughters and there are no sons in the said wedlock. Therefore, as per the Indian laws, equal shares of the property will go to the three daughters and to you, i.e., one-fourth share each.
The share that each person will get as a result of the succession will vest absolutely in them. Such shares can be transferred or gifted or given through a Will to any desired person.
While it will be the sole right of the other two daughters to deal with their shares in the manner that they please respectively, you can transfer your share, i.e., one-fourth of the total property to the desired daughter. This can be achieved by opting one of the methods.
You can execute a relinquishment deed (also known as release deed) or gift deed in favour of the desired daughter. This basically means that an owner of a property will relinquish or give up or gift his or her rights in the property in favour of another person. This relinquishment deed or the gift deed, as the case may be, should be adequately stamped and registered with the concerned sub-registrar of properties. In some states, stamp duty is exempted on a document through which a property has been transferred in favour of a blood relative.
Alternatively, you can also execute a Will through which you can declare the ownership of your share in the property in favour of the desired daughter. The Will should be clear and should be signed by you as testator and should be attested by two witnesses. Although a Will is not mandatorily required to be registered with the concerned sub-registrar of properties; if the same is registered, it will minimise the possibility of future disputes. Additionally, you are required to ensure during your lifetime that the Will remains unamended so far as the declaration of ownership of your share in the property in favour of the desired daughter is concerned.
If your other two daughters also intend to give up their share in the property to their sibling (i.e., the daughter to whom you are transferring your share), all three members (two daughters and you) can also jointly execute the release deeds or gift deeds in favour of the desired daughter. However, this has to be done by the parties of their own free will.
Abhilash Pillai is partner, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.