Hindu Succession Act, 1956: Important and Easy Explanation

Written by: Simran Khosla


  • What is succession?

Succession means succeeding or passing the rights of property from one person to another person. Hindu Succession Act talks about the real owner of the property after a person dies without a will. For example, when a tree falls in a forest, sunlight may again be able to reach the forest floor, which would allow new growth to begin. 

  • Hindu Succession Act

This act is related with intestate (without will) succession and it applies on Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. It relates to legal principles of distribution of assets of a deceased person.

The property is classified into two parts:

  1. Joint family property
  2. Separate property
  1. Joint family property: – Joint family property is known as Coparcener property. It means a person who has the right on the property by his birth. This property consists of ancestral property and property acquired by the members of the joint family.
  • Separate family property: – Separate family property has different ways where family can dispose of property i.e.
  • Testamentary succession (by will)
  • Intestate succession (without will)
  1. Testamentary succession: – This succession is not applicable in the Hindu succession act. Testamentary succession is when succession is governed by a testament or a will. In such cases, the property will devolve according to the will of the deceased.
  • Intestate succession: – Intestate succession means the distribution of the property of the person who has died without leaving a valid and enforceable will behind. Because of this succession, the real owner of the property can be easily known. In this succession, the court has decided the process to distribute the property of a person after his/her death and who can claim his/her rights against the property.

For example, a person dies without disposing off his property, then according to the intestate succession, he shall pass on the right of property from one person to another.

Section 3 of Hindu Succession act: – There are certain definitions mentioned in this section, such as:

  1. Agnates: – It means that a person who is wholly related through males.
  2.  Cognates: – Cognates means that a person who is not wholly related through males.
  3. Custom and Usage: – “Custom” and “usage” under Codified       Hindu Law: Under the codified Hindu Law, the words “custom” and “usage” are defined to suggest any rule which, having been continuously and uniformly observed for a long time, has obtained the force of law among Hindus in any local range, tribe, community, group or family.
  4. Full blood, half blood and uterine blood: – Full blood are the   children who have the same parents.

Half-blood relation means where there is one father but different mothers.

Uterine blood means where mother is same and fathers are different.

  • Heir: – Heir means that a person who is legally entitled to the property when the deceased person did not formalise a last will or testament.
  • Intestate: – Intestate means that when a person dies without leaving any instructions about who should receive the property.

Section 8 of intestate succession for males: – This section is related with the general rule of succession in the case of males and there are many provisions where the property can be divided after dying intestate accordingly.

  1. Class I heirs: –

The property is distributed simultaneously and father has no role in this class. Class I heir is classified as;

Son, daughter, widow, mother, son of a pre-deceased son, daughter of a pre-deceased son, son of a pre-deceased daughter, daughter of a pre-deceased daughter, widow of a pre-deceased son, son of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son, daughter of a pre-deceased of a pre-deceased son, widow of a pre-deceased son of a pre-deceased son.

(Explanation: – In case of illegitimate son’s property only the mother can hire the property and not father).

  • Class II heirs: –

The preference is given to the father in class II heirs and the property is divided sequence wise such as;

  1. Father
  2. 1) Son’s daughter’s son, 2) Son’s daughter’s daughter, 3) Brother, 4) Sister.
  3. 1) Daughter’s son’s son, 2) Daughter’s son’s daughter, 3) Daughter’s daughter’s son, 4) Daughter’s daughter’s daughter.
  4. 1) Brother’s son, 2) Sister’s son, 3) Brother’s daughter, 4) Sister’s daughter.
  5. Father’s father, Father’s mother.
  6. Father’s widow, Brother’s widow.
  7. Father’s brother, Father’s sister.
  8. Mother’s father, Mother’s mother.
  9. Mother’s brother, Mother’s sister.

(Explanation: – In this schedule, references of full & half-blood relations (brother and sister) do not include references to a brother or sister by uterine blood).

  • Agnates: – It means that a person who is wholly related through males.

(Explanation: – Widows are not included because of marriage and uterine blood is also not recognized).

  • Cognates: – Cognates means that a person who is not related with, wholly through males.

(Explanation: – It is not based on marriage and depends on only on blood & adoption relations).

  • Escheat: – When a person dies an intestate and has left no heir qualified to succeed to his or her property, then the government takes over that property.

Section 14 of Hindu succession act: –

This section provides absolute ownership to females.

Section 15 of Intestate Succession for females: – This section relates with the general rule of succession in case of female Hindus. If a female dies an intestate then property will devolve like;

  1. Firstly, upon the sons and daughters(including the children of any pre-deceased son or daughter) and the husband;
  2. Secondly, upon the heirs of the husband;
  3. Thirdly, upon the mother and father;
  4. Fourthly, upon the heirs of the father; and
  5. Lastly, upon the heirs of the mother.

For instance; a married woman has been gifted a property by her parents and thereafter, she dies without disposing of the property and she has no child or pre-deceased child. So, the property will be succeeded to the heirs of the father.

Second example; if that woman receives the property from her in-laws so after her death the property will be given to the heirs of the husband.

CONCLUSION: Conclusively, this act was made to remove inequalities between men and women with respect to rights in property and it lays down a common list of heirs entitled to succeed.

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