In Hindus, intestate succession (i.e. succession without a will) is governed by the Hindu Succession Act, whereas testamentary succession (i.e. succession by way of a will) is governed by the Indian Succession Act.
CLASS 1 LEGAL HEIRS
People who belong to Class I Legal heirs are those to whom the interest in the property will initially pass upon after the death of the intestate. Total of Eleven female and five male members come under the category of Class I Legal heirs. All the class I legal heirs take the property absolutely and solely as their separate property, moreover unlike the former joint family regime no person may claim a right by birth in this inherited property.
The Hindu Succession Act defines four categories of the heirs of the inheritable property of a male Hindu, with Class I heirs receiving the first priority. These Class I legal heirs are as follows:
- Mother [M]
- Widow [W]
- Daughter [D]
- Widow of a predeceased son [SW]
- Daughter of a predeceased son [SD]
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter [DD]
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son [SSD]
- Widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son [SSW]
- Son [S]
- Son of a predeceased son [SS]
- Son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son [SSS]
- Son of a predeceased daughter [DS]
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter [DDD]
- Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter [DDS]
- Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son [SDD]
- Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter [DSD]
All these heirs inherit the property simultaneously and to the exclusion of other heirs. If the heirs in this category are absent, then the property passes upon the heirs in class II.
RULES GOVERNING INHERITANCE FOR CLASS I LEGAL HEIRS
The guidelines for how the interests of the class I heirs will be divided are described in detail in Section 10 of the Succession Act. The guidelines governing the distribution of interests among class I heirs are listed below.
- The mother’s share, as well as the shares of each son and daughter, shall be equal.
- The decedent’s widow is entitled to one share, and if there are more than one widows, they must each take one share collectively, i.e., the part equivalent to the son or daughter, and divide it equally among themselves.
- A share equivalent to that of a surviving son will be given to a predeceased son’s widow, son, or daughter.
- His widow, sons, and daughters of the predeceased son who are still alive will each receive an equal share of the amount given to the predeceased son. In case, there are branches of a predeceased son’s predeceased son’s, then they all will receive an equal share.
- Son, daughter, and widow of a If a predeceased son’s predeceased son has Son, daughter, and widow they shall all get an equal part under the same rules that apply to the branch of the predeceased son of the predeceased son.
- The share given to a deceased daughter’s son or daughter must be equal to the portion given to a daughter who is still alive.
- The share shall be equally distributed between the predeceased daughter’s son and daughter. Any branches of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter shall be subject to the same rule.
CLASS II LEGAL HEIRS
In the absence of any Class I heirs, the devolution in Class II heirs is made so that the heirs listed in a specific entry share equally. If more than one heir is designated for this purpose in a single entry, they all share the property concurrently and equitably, to the exclusion of those designated in later entries.
If a male Hindu dies unmarried and is not succeeded by any members of the class I heirs, the property will pass to the class II heirs. 9 females and 10 males forms the second class of heirs, which consists a total of 19 heirs; these heirs are further classified into nine subcategories which are as follow:
- Son’s daughter’s son
- Daughter son’s son
- Brother’s son
- Sister’s son
- Brother’s daughter
- Sister’s daughter
- Father’s father
- Father’s mother
- Father’s widow
- Brother’s widow
- Father’s brother
- Father’s sister
- Mother’s father
- Mother’s mother
- Mother’s brother
- Mother’s sister
RULES GOVERNING INHERITANCE FOR CLASS II LEGAL HEIRS
Rules governing inheritance for class II legal heirs are as follows:
The heirs in a lower subcategory won’t be allowed to inherit from the heirs in a higher subcategory. In other words, the heirs in the first subcategory will be given preference over those in the second, the second over the third, and so on.
According to the per capita rule of distribution of property, each successor in a category will receive an equal share of the estate; the order in which names occur in a subcategory is immaterial.
AGNATES OR CLASS III HEIRS
The property would descend to agnates or class III heirs if a Hindu male died intestate and left no class 1 or class 2 heirs. If two people are linked through blood or adoption solely through males, they are said to be an agnates of one another. Agnate relationships are limited to those formed by blood and do not include the one’s from marriage. In other words, An agnate falls under class III and is related to the intestate only through the line of male relatives and does not fit into class I or class II category of heirs. Additionally, widows of the intestate’s lineal descendants are not considered agnates.
Rules governing inheritance for Agnates legal heirs are as follows:
- Each generation is referred to as a degree, and the intestate itself is used to calculate degrees.
- Degrees of ascent and descent refer to upward or ancestral degrees and downward or descendant degrees, respectively.
- When a heir possesses both an ascent and a descent degree, each degree must be taken individually rather than cumulatively.
- Regardless of the number of degrees or generation, an agnate of simply descent is preferable over ascent.
- The candidate with the fewer ascending degrees will be favoured when two candidates have both ascent and descent degrees.
The inheritance would be through cognates in the case of a Hindu male who passes away without leaving a will and who has neither class 1 nor class 2 heirs nor agnates. Cognates are those who share some male ancestry with the intestate, either through blood or adoption. As a result, the sons of the mother’s brother and the brother’s daughter’s son are cognates and entitled to inherit.