The fate of a property which is not listed in a will is quite messy and ambiguous. After the death of the owner, the ownership of property changes. and a lot of factors play a vital role in this process.
The process of succession varies across the globe. It mostly depends on factors like the law of the state, gender, marital status and religion of the deceased. In the absence of a government stamped or legally approved will, the status of properties left behind by deceased go haywire. Because of reasons like lack of knowledge about succession, the dominance of the patriarchal society and emotional equations, a lot of confusion arises.
The future of a property (any property) is generally decided by the law of the state in absence of a legal will. But, there are certain rules that are implicated in the succession process, when without a will.
* If the deceased is not married and does not have a partner who is legally recognized, the property is taken by the government, unless claimed by any close relative.
* However, a property can also be inherited by parents if the deceased is unmarried and childless.
* In absence of parents, the property will be divided among the siblings (including half-siblings).
* In absence of both parents and siblings, the property is equally divided among the paternal and maternal relatives.
* If the deceased has children out of wedlock or associations that are legally not recognized, the property is claimed by the government, unless claimed by any close relative.
* If the deceased is married, the immediate successor is the spouse. This applies even when he/she is separated. But this does not work when he/she is divorced.
* If the deceased is a widow/widower, the property is succeeded to the son (first choice)/daughter. In the absence of a son or a daughter, the grandchildren can claim the property.
However, any form of inheritance, without the presence of a legal will, is possible only after the payment of ‘Inheritance Tax’. The amount of the tax is decided by the state and differs from country to country.
For religions like Hindu, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is applicable for succession without a will. However, Islamic Law recognizes two types of successors- sharers and residuary. While sharers are entitled to a certain share in the deceased’s property, the residuary is the recipient of what is left. He/She takes up the share in the property that is left after sharers have taken their part.
Succession without a will is a big messy process. Hence, it has always been advised and encouraged by the government to make a will as soon as the time feels right.
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