Legal Heirs Preferred Over Nominees - Court Decision

The issue of legatees vs. nominees still seems to be causing confusion in the minds of the public. Even after a number of clear judicial decisions on this topic, confirming that legal heirs are the correct persons to inherit assets (over that of a nominee), a new decision re-confirms this issue.

The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal, New Delhi (“NCLAT”), on November 14th, 2019 had held that nomination does not amount to beneficial ownership to an asset and the nominee holds the asset for and on behalf of the legal heirs of the deceased. The Bench of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhyaya and Justice A.I.S. Cheema, in the case of Oswal Greentech v Mr Pankaj Oswal and Ors[1] (“Oswal”) whilst listening to the question of maintainability of the petition under Section 241-242 of the Companies Act, 2013 (“Act”), decided on the said matter.
Continue Reading Court Re-Confirms That Legal Heirs Are Preferred Over Nominees

Wedding Succession Planning - Inheritance rights of Hindus

When one is about to get married, there are myriad thoughts crossing one’s mind all at once – from meticulous planning of the upcoming nuptials, to mundane but practical matters such as updating official documents, to creating social media hashtags. A wedding is after all a momentous occasion in a person’s life, and planning is key. It might be safe to say, however, that the thought of how marriage will impact one’s inheritance rights and succession planning in anticipation are usually not top of the list.

In this blog, we discuss this important but rarely discussed topic – the effect of marriage on inheritance rights and planning in anticipation of marriage. As this is a vast topic and issues vary depending on the facts of each case, we have discussed some of the key issues and limited the discussion in this post to Hindus.
Continue Reading Wedding (Succession) Planning: Analysing Impact of Marriage on Inheritance Rights of Hindus

Supreme Court on rights of Hindu Muslim Interfaith Children

The Supreme Court of India, in the case of Mohammed Salim vs Shamsudeen[1], has finalised the views of a number of High Courts by ruling that a child born out of the marriage of a Muslim man and Hindu woman is legitimate and the child is entitled to inherit the property of the father.

This is a very significant judgment in the current socio-cultural milieu, even though inter-faith marriages are still deeply frowned upon.

Inheritance Rights of a Child Born Out of an Irregular Marriage under Muslim Personal Laws

All matters (except those relating to agricultural land) with respect to intestate succession, special property of females, including personal property inherited or obtained under contract or gift or any other provision of personal law, marriage, dissolution of marriage, maintenance, dower, gifts etc., of Muslim followers are governed by the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 (Shariat).  Shariat extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir. 
Continue Reading Supreme Court on the Rights of Inter-faith (Hindu-Muslim) Children

 A Will differs from contracts and other executed documents in one important aspect. Unlike other documents, a Will only takes effect from the death of the person who has made it (called the testator). The testator’s testimony is not available to determine whether the Will is valid and whether it constitutes the testator’s true intentions. Thus, the validation and interpretation of a Will is rather unique for the significance of surrounding circumstances, and the identity and status of parties.

This being the case, it becomes advisable not only to prepare a Will that is clear and legally valid, but also to ensure that if a challenge to the Will is anticipated, suitable safeguards to fortify it have been put in place. In this post, we discuss the legal grounds on which a Will may be challenged, and some of the commonly adopted precautions that testators may put in place to help validate their Wills and to assist in giving effect to their desired intentions.

Grounds for Challenge

After the testator passes away, the Will may be challenged before a Court by any person who claims to have an interest in the testator’s estate. If the Court finds, based on the evidence placed before it, that the challenge is sustainable, it will declare the Will void and set it aside.


Continue Reading Fortify Your Will: Safeguards to Ensure that Your Will is Validated

Photo credit: Indian Express, August 23, 2017

Through its historic ruling delivered by a five-judge bench in the case of Shayara Bano and Ors v. Union of India on August 22nd 2017, the Supreme Court of India (SC) liberated Muslim women from the perpetual fear of arbitrary and whimsical divorce. The SC banned the regressive practice of instant ‘triple talaq’, which allowed Muslim men to unilaterally end their marriages simply by uttering the word “talaq” thrice without making any provision for maintenance or alimony. These often happened on the flimsiest of grounds, if any, which left the women at a serious and grave disadvantage.

The long-standing battle to get triple talaq abolished gained renewed momentum in October 2015, when the SC decided to look into the matter of Muslim women facing gender-based discrimination within the community. A Constitutional Bench of the SC was set up to examine if Muslim women face gender discrimination in divorce cases.


Continue Reading Sin! Sin! Sin! : Supreme Court Declares Triple Talaq Unconstitutional!

A Will is one of the most frequently used tools in the process of succession planning. A Will is made by testators at the appropriate stage(s) of their life, and usually benefits family. However, a fear that looms large in their mind is the risk that someone may challenge the Will, causing it to get stuck in the labyrinth of the Indian court system. This fear is likely to be more acute when the testator knows that there is a specific person, either within the family or outside, who may challenge the bequests (or lack thereof!) under the Will. Unfortunately, there are many instances of such messy and protracted disputes. The main victims who suffer in these disputes are the testator’s family – they will not inherit the estate until the dispute is settled. Hence, the testator’s fears are completely justified.

To avoid these consequences, one option the testator can explore is entering into a contractual waiver with such persons – whereby any one or all of the beneficiaries (those who may benefit under the testator’s will, family or non-family) forego their right to challenge the Will. This would mean that the family can inherit the estate smoothly and quickly, without dispute or hassle.

But why would a beneficiary agree to do so? It ultimately comes down to a commercial decision and negotiation. Beneficiaries will be concerned that certain assets or amounts from the estate should come to them (for reasons which may not always be robust, or which may withstand a deeper legal scrutiny). If the testator can agree to meet such requests through the Will, or even by way of a lifetime transfer, then the beneficiaries may be willing to enter into a contractual waiver of their right to challenge it. But this is a commercial decision that needs to be taken by both parties. Testators are ultimately buying peace for their family after death. This article further explores the legality and practical aspects of such a waiver.


Continue Reading Can You Waive Your Right to Challenge a Will?

Recently, a Division Bench[1] of the Bombay High Court hopefully settled the controversy regarding the rights of legal heirs as opposed to nominees. The Court held that the rights of legal heirs supersede the rights of the nominee of a shareholder.

The controversy arose with two Single Bench Bombay High Court judgments: Harsha Kokate v. The Saraswat Co-operative Bank Limited[2] (Kokate case) and J. J. Salgaonkar v. J.J. Salgaonkar[3] (Salgaonkar case). In the Kokate case, relying primarily on Section 109A of the erstwhile Companies Act, 1956 (1956 Act), the Court held that the nominee would be entitled to all rights in shares and debentures, including ownership rights, to the exclusion of all other persons. Thus, upon death of the shareholder, the securities would automatically get transferred to the nominee, and not the legal heirs.
Continue Reading When Succession Prevails Over Nomination

Background

In December of 2015, the Delhi High Court in its decision in Sujata Sharma (“Judgement”) laid to rest a long-standing and archaic traditional notion in Indian Hindu succession law (“Succession Law”): this notion effectively prevented a woman member of a Hindu Undivided Family (“HUF”) from acting as the karta (manager/ person-in charge of a HUF). To those unaware of these concepts under Succession Law, a HUF is a construct under Hindu law that comprises of all persons lineally descended from a common ancestor within four generations. Briefly put, a HUF may be considered as a concern that is comprised of stakeholders who share a common lineage and as a concern that holds property and undertakes commerce or other activities, for the benefit of its stakeholders.


Continue Reading Modernising the Traditional Hindu family