The Private Client team at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas shares their comments and opinions shared in an article in the following Q&A which was published by the Mint Newspaper on 1st September, 2020 and the online edition of the same can be found here.
My husband has one brother and one sister. Due to some family issues between my mother-in-law and me, we are not in contact since 2013. In 2017, we came to know that my father-in-law has given all his retirement money to my brother-in-law to purchase a flat worth ₹24 lakh. My in-laws stayed in their ancestor property. Can we get a share in this ancestral property?
—Name withheld on request
It is helpful to first understand the concept of ancestral property under the Hindu laws. Generally, it connotes that whenever an ancestor inherits any property from any of his paternal ancestors up to three generations above him, then his legal heirs up to three generations below him would get an equal right as coparceners in that property. Such a property should not have been divided by the members of the joint Hindu family. When a division or partition happens in a joint Hindu family, it becomes a self-acquired property in the hands of a family member who has received it. There is a legal debate raging today if the concept of ancestral property is still valid or relevant anymore.
If the property is currently registered in the name of your father-in-law, he would have the right to transfer the property to any person during his lifetime or under his will. If the property is passed on to any one of his children to the exclusion of others, it would lose its characteristic as an ancestral property and become a self-acquired property of such person to whom it has been transferred or bequeathed to. If, however, your father-in-law passes away without executing a will or without transferring the property to any person during his lifetime, it would pass on to his heirs in accordance with the intestate succession laws laid down under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.
In such a case, it must be noted that in the case of Danamma versus Amar (2018(1)SCALE657), the Supreme Court held that the rights of a daughter are equal to that of a son while inheriting ancestral property. If your father-in-law passes away intestate, his property would devolve onto his Class I heirs—his wife and his children in equal proportions. In this case, your husband would get one-fourth share in the property.