Ninaad Deshmukh

Maharashtra National Law University, Mumbai


A person in a Joint Hindu Family dying intestate leaves behind the important question of the distribution of their property among their family. Fortunately, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 (amended in 2005) provides us with a proper mechanism for distribution of the said property.

According to Section 3(1)(f) of the Act, a ‘heir’ is any male or female person, who is entitled to receive the property of the intestate. Heirs in a Hindu Succession are divided into 4 categories:

  1. Class I
  2. Class II
  3. Class III (Agnates)
  4. Class IV (Cognates)

Section 8 of the Act lays down the general rules of succession in the case of Hindu males who have died intestate and inter-alia states that the property of such a male Hindu shall devolve firstly, upon the heirs of the deceased, being Class I heirs. And secondly, if there are no Class I heirs, then upon the Class II heirs. Thirdly, if there is no heir of any of the two Classes, then the property shall devolve upon the agnates of the deceased; and lastly, if there is no agnate, then upon the cognates of the deceased.

Class I heirs are people who have the foremost interest in the property of the intestate upon his death. No such Class I heir has the right to claim a share in the property by birth. It can only be instituted upon the death of the intestate. Also, all these members inherit their share of the property as separate property and have complete right of independent enjoyment over the same, unless the conditions are otherwise. There are 16 members who come under the Classification of Class I heirs. They are as follows:

  1. Mother
  2. Daughter
  3. Widow
  4. Widow of a predeceased son
  5. Daughter of a predeceased son
  6. Daughter of a predeceased daughter
  7. Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
  8. Widow of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
  9. Son
  10. Son of a predeceased son
  11. Son of a predeceased son of a predeceased son
  12. Son of a predeceased daughter
  13. Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
  14. Son of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter
  15. Daughter of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased son
  16. Daughter of a predeceased son of a predeceased daughter

There are certain rules that need to be followed when dividing the property amongst the Class I category members. Section 10 of the Act lays down these rules as follows:

  1. The share of each son and daughter and that of the mother shall be equal.
  2. The widow of the deceased shall take one share and if there is more than one widow all of them, collectively take one share i.e., the share equal to the son or daughter and will divide it equally among themselves.
  3. A predeceased son survived by a widow or son or daughter shall be allotted a share equal to a living son.
  4. Out of the portion allotted to the predeceased son his widow and living sons and daughters will take equal portions with respect to each other. Any branch of the predeceased son of this predeceased son will get an equal portion.
  5. The rule applicable to the branch of predeceased son of the predeceased son is the same as of predeceased son wherein son, daughter and widow will get an equal share.
  6. A predeceased daughter who is survived by a son or a daughter is to be allotted an equal share to that of a living daughter.
  7. The son and daughter of the predeceased daughter shall take an equal portion in the share. The same rule shall apply to any branches of a predeceased daughter of a predeceased daughter.

Hence, these are all the heirs that are counted as Class-I heirs in a Joint Hindu Family. It is only on the absence of these heirs, that the property can be devolved to the subsequent classes.

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