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How to deal with claims on a property when there is no will.

The following article was first published in the Mint newspaper on 10th August, 2022. The same was written by our Private Client team at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, who frequently publish their comments and opinions in the Mint. The online version of the article can be found here.

My great-grandfather had two sons and three daughters. He had purchased a property in 1980 but died without leaving a will. Recently, both his sons and a daughter died. The other two daughters are claiming a share of that property from my father and uncles. The property has been maintained by my grandfather, my father and uncles for the past 35 years. The two had been given a fixed amount of cash along with some jewellery by my grandfather but that is not recorded anywhere. What can we do in such a situation?

—Name withheld on request

Your query infers that your great-grandfather was a Hindu and he died intestate. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, lays down provisions for the property of a Hindu male dying intestate. (if a person dies intestate, his property would go to Class I heirs and will be shared equally among them. If the Class I heirs do not exist, then the property would be delegated to Class II heirs. The two sons and three daughters of your great grandfather would be regarded as ‘Class I legal heirs’ and would have an equal share in his property i.e. each child will be entitled to 1/5th share in his property. In case any such son or daughter is pre-deceased, the share of such pre-deceased son or daughter would devolve on his or her children in equal proportion.

In the absence of any document like a memorandum of family settlement / arrangement, such an oral family settlement/ understanding will have to be established before a court in order to deny the claim of these daughters to the property of your great grandfather, unless the same is amicably settled between the family members. For this purpose, any evidence of amounts and jewellery given to them would be helpful. In practice, this is extremely difficult and expensive to do, so you may wish to consider the way forward. Do speak to your attorney.