The Private Client team at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas shares their comments and opinions in an article in the following Q&A which was published by the Mint Newspaper on 24th November, 2021 and the online edition of the same can be found here.
My brother-in-law passed away suddenly and has not left any Will. He has a house in his name which is under mortgage for a loan. He is survived by his wife, a son who is a major and his mother. The house isn’t an ancestral property. It is a Hindu family. If the house is sold after a few years of the death of his mother, who will be the legal heirs for the money? Will it be my sister and her son only or will the legal heirs of the mother (another son and two daughters) also be a part?
—Name withheld on request
Please note that intestate succession for Hindus is governed by the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (HSA). Accordingly, when a Hindu male dies intestate (i.e. without leaving behind a valid Will), his or her assets would be equally distributed among his Class I heirs. Note that the property of the deceased is distributed among the Class II heirs only in the absence of surviving Class I heirs.
Given that your brother-in-law passed away, leaving behind his widow, mother and a son (i.e. Class I heirs), his siblings and other relatives would not be entitled to a share in the property. Therefore, the title in the house vests equally with your brother-in-law’s mother, his wife and his son. Therefore, in case of any future sale of the property, these 3 individuals would be the sellers, and the sale proceeds received would ordinarily vest in 3 of them. Accordingly, if the house is sold after the demise of your brother-in-law’s mother, and if a portion of the sale proceeds were due to her and she did not leave behind a Will, her share would devolve upon her Class I heirs (i.e. husband, children, etc). In the present case, the Class I heirs of your brother-in-law’s mother would be her children. Her share would be distributed equally among her heirs. But to avoid this situation and to ensure that the proceeds flow to a specified person, it is advisable that she executes a Will bequeathing the proceeds to a specified family member.