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Religion Matters: Indian Succession Laws When There’s No Will

Religion Matters: Indian Succession Laws When There’s No Will

When there’s no Will in place, the fate of your assets depends on the religion that you belong to.

Team Yellow



min read

July 26, 2023

Have you ever thought about what happens when an Indian citizen passes away without having a valid Will in place (ie intestate)? What’s essential for you to know is that, in cases like these, the fate of your assets depends on the religion that you belong to. This means that the law of succession varies across distinct religions in India, and is different for communities, such as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Parsis.

If a Hindu person dies without a Will, then the assets left behind are governed by the Hindu Succession Act 1956 (HSA). Similarly, the law governing intestate succession for Christians, Parsis, and Jews is contained in the Indian Succession Act 1925 (ISA). For the purpose of personal laws, a person who is Buddhist, Jain, or Sikh by religion is also deemed to be a Hindu. If your religious identity is anything other than Muslim, Christian, Parsi, or Jew, then you are also governed by Hindu laws as far as succession of properties is concerned.

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the rules of succession that apply as per personal laws.

Succession Laws For Hindus

This statute specifies who will inherit the assets, as well as the share of each heir. The manner of the succession of assets is different for a Hindu male and a Hindu female.

When a Hindu male dies without a Will, his mother, wife, son, daughter, and grandchildren (if the children are predeceased) are his heirs, who will typically inherit equal shares of his assets. This set of immediate family members is considered the first class of heirs, out of a total of four categories.

Only in the event that the heirs in the first prescribed list are not there do the courts then consider other categories of heirs for asset distribution. The second category includes individuals like the deceased’s father, siblings, and others. The third and fourth categories of heirs are those that are distantly related to the deceased, either through blood or adoption, and inherit only when none of the heirs in the first two categories are living.

For a Hindu female, her husband and children get priority in inheriting her assets. The next set of heirs who may inherit are the heirs of the husband, her parents, heirs of her father, and heirs of her mother. The set of heirs mentioned first inherit to the exclusion of the next set of heirs mentioned. Interestingly, the assets that a Hindu female inherited from her husband or from her father get passed on according to a distinct set of rules which are mentioned in the HSA.

Succession Laws For Christians

The ISA specifies who will inherit the assets and what is the share of each heir of a Christian individual who dies without a Will, depending on who the heirs left behind are. For instance, these rules differ as per whether the deceased’s wife or husband, children, grandchildren, parents, and other relatives are present.

Typically, the surviving spouse receives one-third share of the assets and the remaining two-thirds share gets divided equally among the children. If no children are alive, then grandchildren inherit the assets. The surviving husband/wife inherits all the assets in case he/she is the sole heir and no other heirs mentioned under the law are living.

In the event there are no children nor lineal descendants, the surviving spouse receives half the asset share and the other half is shared among a set of relatives who have descended from a common ancestor, called “kindreds”. The half share meant for the kindreds depends on who these relatives are. For instance, if the deceased’s father is one of the kindreds, then he inherits half the share meant for the kindreds. If the father is no more, but the mother and the siblings are alive, then this share gets divided equally among them, and so on.

Succession Laws For Parsis

For Parsis, the laws of succession in the event of there being no Will specify that males and females in the same degree of closeness to the deceased person inherit equal shares.

The surviving spouse and children inherit equal shares, whereas children inherit equally in case the person’s spouse has passed away before the person. Further, there are prescribed shares for the surviving spouse of lineal descendants of the deceased person.

The law prescribes a list of residuary heirs who inherit in the event specified heirs are not present.

Succession Laws For Muslims

The succession rules laid out below largely apply to Hanafi Sunnis.

If there is no valid Will, the heirs of the person inherit the assets in a manner such that certain heirs, grouped together and known as “sharers” (typically parents, spouse, and grandparents), receive assets (disproportionately, depending on specific facts) and in priority to another set of heirs grouped together and known as “residuaries”. In the event none of these heirs are living, a third set of heirs, known as “distant kindreds”, inherit the assets. It is important to consider who the heirs left behind are in order to identify each of these groups of heirs.

The Bottom Line

A valid Will eliminates many of the complications that arise as a result of the succession laws governed by the specific religion that you practice, but more importantly, this prescribed distribution may not really be in line with the actual wishes of the person who passes away without a Will.

Yellow can help you easily create a Will to determine your specific wishes and desires when it comes to the future of your loved ones.


Team Yellow


min read
July 26, 2023



Intestate Succession

Hindu Succession Act 1956

Indian Succession Act 1925

Legal Knowledge

Sharia Law

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