Can my niece claim a share of her grandmother’s property?

Can my niece claim a share of her grandmother’s property?

My mother, who owned a house in Lucknow, died recently without leaving behind a will. Of my three siblings, one sister and a brother died sometime ago. Can my niece, the daughter of my late sister, claim a share in my mother’s property?

—Name withheld on request

We assume that your mother was a Hindu and there is no right or interest of any other person in the property held by her.

In the given scenario, the legal framework for the distribution of property revolves around the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, with a focus on intestate succession. The Act has undergone amendments over time, and the specific provisions may depend on the version of the Act in effect at the time of her passing.

As per section 15 of the Act, which outlines general rules of succession in the case of female Hindus, the property of a female Hindu dying intestate devolves in a specific order. First, it goes to sons, daughters, and the husband, followed by the heirs of the husband, then the mother and father, and finally, the heirs of the father. A subsection introduces exceptions for property inherited from the father, mother, husband, or father-in-law, specifying alternative lines of succession in certain circumstances

Section 16 further details the order of succession and manner of distribution among heirs of a female Hindu. Rule 1 establishes a hierarchy among heirs specified in Section 15, prioritizing those in one entry over those in succeeding entries. Rule 2 addresses situations where a predeceased son or daughter has living children, directing the share to be divided among them. Rule 3 aligns the devolution of property on certain heirs with the order and rules that would apply if the property belonged to the father, mother, or husband.

In the context of the family described, with one sister and one brother having passed away, their respective legal heirs would inherit their shares of the property. For the deceased sister, her daughter (your niece) would typically be considered her legal heir. Thus, your niece may have a legitimate claim to her mother’s share of the property as per the rules of intestate succession outlined in the Act.

It’s crucial to note that the specifics of property distribution can vary based on state-specific laws and the intricacies of individual relationships. To obtain precise guidance tailored to the circumstances, consulting with a qualified legal professional well-versed in the Hindu Succession Act and the relevant state laws is advised. This legal expert can provide insights into the current laws applicable to the property’s location and offer guidance on navigating the intricacies of the situation.

In conclusion, the information presented is not an opinion but an interpretation based on the reading of the Hindu Succession Act. To ensure accurate advice and adherence to current legal standards, seeking professional legal counsel is essential in this matter.

Neha Pathak is head of trust and estate planning, Motilal Oswal Private Wealth.

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Published: 12 Dec 2023, 10:48 PM IST

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