Hindu Succession Act is all related to the inheritance and succession of the property. Intestate and un-willed succession is also been dealt in Hindu Succession act. All the concepts of Hindu Succession come into the ambit of this act. The Indian law is acquainted with the concept of an heir. Persons who can inherit the property from their ancestors legally are known as heirs. A uniform system is being carried out by this act under which it is incorporated by both succession and inheritance. The important concept of heirs is recognized worldwide. Every ancestral property is divided into the legal heirs of the owner.

Applicability of Hindu Succession Act
As per Section-2 of this Act, it applies to every person who is a Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist by religion and every legitimate and illegitimate child having the above same religion would be qualified for inheritance and succession under this act. Also, any person who is not a Jew, Parsi, Christian or Muslim by religion and having one parent as a Hindu, Sikh, Jain, or Buddhist will be qualified for inheritance. But this particular section is not applied to Article-366 of the Indian Constitution which covers the people of scheduled tribe.

Various types of Succession
Testamentary Succession
In Testamentary succession, the succession of the property is ruled by a will or testament. A will can be made up by a Hindu male or female for the property under the Hindu Law. It also includes the share in undivided Mitakshara coparcener property. Under testamentary succession the division would be according to the will not according to the law of inheritance, and this would be legally enforceable.

Intestate succession
In intestate succession, there is a distribution of property according to the law of inheritance because a person dies in this leaving behind no testament.

Terms to understand

As per Section-3(1) (a) of this act, an agnate is a person who are related by blood or adoption. Where two persons are related through blood or adoption wholly through males is termed to be an agnate of other.
As per Section-3(1) (c)of this act, where two or more persons are connected to each other by blood or adoption, but not wholly through males is termed to be a cognate of another.
As per Section-3(1) (f) of this act, a person who is legally entitled to inherit the property of the intestate is known as a legal heir.
As per Section-3(1) (g) of this act, an intestate is where a person dies without leaving behind any testament or any will.

Classification of heirs
Heirs are classified into four categories:

  • Class I
  • Class II
  • Class III (Agnates)
  • Class IV (Cognates)

Class I heirs
Class 1 heirs will inherit the property concurrently and no other person from class II heir can come and claim their right by birth if there is an existence of class I heir.

  • Son/Daughter
  • Widow
  • Mother
  • Son/Daughter of a pre-deceased Son
  • Son/Daughter of a pre-deceased Daughter
  • Widow of a pre-deceased Son
  • Son/Daughter of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son at three levels
  • Widow of a pre-deceased Son’s pre-deceased Son

Class II heirs
The Class II heirs are categorized and given the property in the order mentioned below:

  • Father
  • Son’s Daughter’s son
  • Son’s daughter’s daughter
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Daughter’s son’s son, daughter’s son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter’s son, daughter’s daughter’s daughter
  • son of brother and sister, daughter of brother and sister
  • 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

If there is an absence of Class-I heir in any case, then the inheritance would shift to Class-II heir. In “Kalyan Kumar Bhattacharjee vs. Pratibha Chakarborty” case it was held that when a male Hindu who was unmarried and he died and not continued to exist in Class-I heir then the inheritance would be shifted to Class-II heir.

Class III heirs
It consists of only agnates who are the distant blood relatives of male ancestry.

Class IV heirs
It consists of only cognates who are the distant blood relatives of female ancestry. Also, when there is no Class-I, Class-II, Class-III heirs, and then the inheritance would be given to Class-IV heirs who are the cognates.
If the Hindu female dies intestate, the property will be transferred in the following manner:

  • Upon the Sons, Daughters and the Husband
  • Upon the heirs of the Husband
  • Upon the Mother and Father
  • The Father’s heir and
    Upon the heirs of the Mother

If a person murdered other, he can’t claim the inheritance in his property. One can claim inheritance if he has been converted into some other religion but his descendants should be re-converted into Hinduism. If a widow again gets married then she can’t claim the inheritance but her children can do it.
The Hindu Succession Act doesn’t differentiate between adopted child and own child. Hindu law gives equal rights to both the adoptive children and children.

Before the amendment act of Hindu Law the Class I heirs had twelve heirs, wherein eight were females and four were males, but after the amendment in 2005, four new heirs were added in, in which eleven are female and five are male. Hindu law gives immense rights to daughters. Heirs plays vital role in the Succession. As per the classes of heirs only, there is devolution of property if there is not testament and one died intestate.

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