Inheritance is defined as a practice of transferring of properties, title, deeds, debts, rights and obligation to the legal heir of the person who holds the property after his death by way of will or by way of succession. The law governing the inheritance in India often based on the religion of the person. The main law for governing inheritance is the Indian Succession Act, 1925.

Laws of succession incorporate the legal principles of division or distribution of the property of a deceased either by way of will or by way of succession. If a person dies by making estate the property divide as per the clauses of the will and if he dies intestate or without making a will the law of succession prevails. There are generally two types of properties which are to be distributed among the heirs of the deceased i.e. the ancestral property while falls from linage of the male and the self-acquired property which is solely owned by the person.

Will is generally a written document that shows the desire of the person who is already dead, that how he wants his property to be divided among his legal heirs. Succession follows when the person dies without making a will and laws of succession are different for Hindu, Muslims and Christians. The laws of succession as per religions are almost similar to each other and agreed on the same fact that an illegitimate child has no right of inheritance. Personal laws of inheritance and succession in India lies upon whether the person dies after making a will or without a will. If he dies leaving behind the will, the property distributed as per the terms and conditions mentioned in the will and if dies without a will the concept of successions follows.

The laws of succession for Hindus are codified in the Hindu Succession law. The Hindu succession Act 1956 is applicable to Hindus, Jains, Buddists and Sikhs. The property will pass exclusively to the heirs fall under the list of Class I heirs and if there is no heir left in list of class I heir the share passes to the Class II and then to agnates and cognates which includes:

Class I heirs:

  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Mother of the intestate

The heirs of pre-deceased children of the intestate (which shall include the widow, sons, daughters of the predeceased children as well)

Class II Heirs:

  • Father
  • Grand Parents
  • Grand Children
  • Brother
  • Sister
  • Other relatives

Agnates: These are the blood relations to the deceased through males such as bother’s son, brother’s daughter, son’s son, etc.
Cognates: These are the blood relations to the deceased through female’s sister’s son, sister’s.

Inheritance and succession under Muslim Law is governed by Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937. Inheritance under Muslim personal law is managed by the two ways i.e. per capita Distribution and per strip distribution. Per capita distribution is followed by the Shia school of law. As per this method the estate left by deceased distributed among the heirs equally. Per strip distribution is followed by Sunni school of law. According to this method property distributes among the heirs of the deceased as per the strip they belong to. The illegitimate child has no right of inheritance. Muslim law governs two types’ of heirs for the purpose of succession which are sharers and residuaries. Sharers are those who has right of certain share in the deceased property and residuaries are those which are entitled to share which was left by the sharers.

Sharers include:
Daughter of a son (or son’s son or son’s son and so on),
Paternal Grandfather,
Grandmother on the male line,
Full sister
Consanguine sister
Uterine sister, and
Uterine brother

Property rights of Christians and Parsi is governed under the Indian Succession Act, 1925. The Christians law of inheritance is equal to both men and women. The property for a person is seen as the self acquired property and during the life time of the person nobody can challenge or contest the property. The Indian succession Act from section 31 to 49 laid down provisions for the inheritance of Christians and section 50 to 56 laid down for the inheritance provisions of Parsis. As per the Indian Succession act Christians recognizes three types of heirs that are spouse, Lineal Descendants and Kindred. Lineal descendants heir is born out of lawful marriage and kindred are those who are related by blood through a lawful marriage. Illegitimate child has no right of inheritance under the
Act. As for Christian inheritance, no such list of heirs has been mentioned under the Indian Succession Act, 1925 but it provides the portion of property to be given to every heir after the death of the person.