Since time immemorial, Indians have placed a lot of value on land and gold as indicators of wealth. One of the main reasons the country's culture places a high value on property and gold is because these are considered the mainstays of inheritance. However, we see a marked difference in how they are endowed between the two.
Traditionally, the gold jewellery is inherited by the daughter of the family or given to her during her wedding as "stree dhan". At the same time, the son stands to inherit the land or the real estate. To understand the legal rights of the daughter on her father's property, let us look closely at the legislation and judicial precedents set in the country.
The laws of inheritance in India have been very complex and varied. Many of them are highly coloured by religious, caste, and cultural factors. Let us clarify a few relevant terms to understand the legal validity of a beneficiary's claims.
While there is no clear law that defines "ancestral property", various judgements have clarified the concept. Land, property, or real estate inherited by a Hindu male from his father, paternal grandfather, or paternal great-grandfather is ancestral property. This property passes on to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the inheritor by virtue of their birth. In legal parlance, the word "coparceners" is used to represent an heir who has the legal right to an ancestral property by birth.
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 defines a self-acquired property as one that the owner buys or acquires through his own resources or by a division of ancestral property. It can be inherited by the legal heirs or can be gifted or willed by the owner.
Any person who stands to inherit the property of an ancestor after the latter's death, in the absence of a will, is referred to as an heir. Now arises the question, can a daughter be the heir of her father's property, or what are a daughter's rights on her father's property?
Before 2005, the daughters could not claim the same rights as sons on the father's property. So long as they remained unmarried, daughters were considered "members" of the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). Until 2005, sons were considered coparceners and could ask for their share in the ancestral property through sale or partition. Daughters could not make such a claim.
In 2005, the Hindu Succession Act was amended to secure the rights of daughters as coparcenaries in the ancestral and self-acquired properties of their fathers. In 2011, the Supreme Court of India further upheld the amendment by ruling that daughters have equal rights in the father's ancestral or self-acquired property if the father died before the amendment was introduced in 2005, provided that the property was not divided before November 2004. Following the amendment, these are some salient points daughters should know -
In 2022, a Supreme Court bench further ruled that when the father died intestate or without a will, the Hindu daughter would directly inherit the father's property if there are no other legal heirs. By this ruling, the apex court of India placed the rights of the daughter over other male relatives, such as the father's brothers.
Existence of a will – When it comes to property inheritance, it is important to remember that a property owner can bequeath his/her property or immovable asset through a registered will to anyone. This means that self-acquired properties can be passed on to any beneficiary through a will. This does not apply to ancestral properties, though. If a registered will exists, it supersedes any claim of inheritance by legal heirs such as sons and daughters. In some cases where there is a legal ground to challenge the will, both sons and daughters can equally do so in a court of law.
Unlike many other countries, the Indian legal system does not inhibit women from buying, owning, maintaining, or selling real estate and immovable property. In fact, states like Maharashtra offer women a 1% concession on stamp duty. This is done to promote financial empowerment among women and encourage them to acquire and own property.
Moveable property is a category of assets that is equally significant but sometimes ignored in a society where property is typically seen as a permanent and immovable asset. We will examine the principles of movable property in this comprehensive book, learning what it is, why it is significant, and how it could be essential in many areas of our lives.
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