Women have always faced discrimination and have not been able to inherit ancestral property due to several reasons. You need to be aware of your inheritance rights of women as a wife, daughter, mother or a sister.
Becoming aware of your rights will help claim your entitlement that is rightfully yours. One of the reasons for this discrimination is the absence of uniform inheritance laws across all sects and religions in India. Read further to understand the laws governing the Inheritance Rights of Women.
Different laws govern each religion, and tribes in states have their customs. These laws and customs have discouraged the inheritance of property by women. They aim to prevent fragmentation of landholdings and loss of wealth when women marry.
Secondly, the level of literacy and awareness about inheritance laws among women has been low. Moreover, women have not been willing to fight for their inheritance rights in the courts.
Thirdly, strong patriarchal traditions and the fear of violence prevent many women from standing up for their rights. In many areas, women choose to renounce their claim over ancestral property. The justification for this is that the father pays her dowry and marriage expenses, so the property should go to his sons.
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was also biased against women until changes introduced in 2005 gave equal rights to daughters. In the past, laws did not motivate women to fight for their inheritance rights. Now, soaring property prices are driving more and more women to claim their rights.
Here we will examine the inheritance rights of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian women, and what steps they can take if someone denies them their share.
Also read: Financial Planning for Single Woman
Inheritance Rights of Hindu Women
The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 applies to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, and it applies to both women and men. The act does not distinguish between movable and immovable property. It only applies where there is no will and is not applicable in cases where a will exists.
Property inherited up to four generations of male lineage without any division is ancestral property. The right to share such property comes through birth. The owner of self-acquired property buys it from his resources, and he is free to will it to anyone.
A wife can claim an equal share in her deceased husband’s properties, like other entitled, surviving heirs. In case there are no other sharers, she inherits all the property of her late husband. A married Hindu woman has exclusive rights to her property.
A daughter can claim an equal share in ancestral property as a son. Before 2005, only sons received a share in ancestral property. A father cannot will such property to anyone he wants, or deny a daughter her share in it. However, he can gift or will self-acquired property to anyone he wants, and no one can object to this.
A mother is a Class I heir, and she has the right to get an equal share in her late son’s property, like other entitled, surviving sharers.
A sister, whose brother dies, will inherit her share with other Class II legal heirs if there is no Class I legal heir, and the father of the deceased brother is also no more.
Inheritance Rights of Muslim Women
When a Muslim man dies, both females and males become legal heirs, but females usually get only half as much as male heirs. The law distributes two-thirds of the property among the heirs, and the deceased can only bequeath one-third of the property as per his wishes.
A wife who doesn’t have children gets one-fourth of the property of her late husband. A wife with children gets one-eighth of the property. If there is more than one wife, the share may be smaller. A divorced woman gets maintenance from her parental family after the Iddat period of around three months.
A son gets twice the share of the daughter, but the daughter is the full owner of the inherited property. If there is no son, the daughter receives half of the inheritance. If there is more than one daughter, they together get two-thirds of the estate.
A mother gets one-third of her late son’s property if he does not have any children. If he has children, the mother gets one-sixth of the inheritance.
Inheritance Rights of Christian Women
The Indian Succession Act of 1923, specifically Sections 31 to 49, governs Christians. According to the act, heirs get an equal share regardless of their gender.
If a Christian man leaves behind a widow and lineal descendants, she gets one-third of his property and two-thirds goes to the descendants. In case there are no lineal descendants, but other relatives are living, half of the property goes to the widow, and the other half goes to the relatives. If there are no relatives, the whole estate goes to the widow.
A daughter has equal rights to her father’s property as her brothers. On reaching the age of majority, she also has full rights to her personal property.
Let’s look at what happens if a man with no lineal descendants dies without making a will.After deducting the widow’s share, his mother gets an equal share as the other entitled, surviving sharers. These sharers could be the sister, brother, or widow of such a sibling, or the children of predeceased siblings.
Also read: Why, When & How Of Will Writing
What should you do if you do not get your share?
If you do not get your share of the ancestral property, you can send a legal notice to the person who is denying your right. If you are not allowed to stake your claim, you can file a suit for partition in a civil court.
You can also seek a partition of property that other legal heirs are occupying. In case physical separation is not possible, the court can auction the property and give you your share.
You can also request the court to ensure that no one sells the property while the suit is pending. If someone sells the property without your consent, you can ask the court to add the buyer as a party in the lawsuit.
It’s essential to be aware of your inheritance rights as a wife, daughter, sister, or mother. ascertain about your entitlements based on the laws that govern your religion. Seek legal advice from a lawyer you trust, and take appropriate action if you are not getting your share.