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What happens to the property of a person who dies without a Will?

What happens when the owner of a property dies without allocating shares in his property? Partition of a property is a complex issue. Property cases worth crores are pending in Indian courts awaiting resolution. 

In the absence of testamentary documents, this is likely to become a family dispute. A Will is a legal document that permits a person, the testator, to make decisions on how his estate will be managed and disposed after his death. It is our tendency to delay the writing of a Will because it is not legally mandatory. However, this document plays a key role in case of a family dispute. 

What happens when a person dies intestate or without making a Will?

"If a person dies intestate, the property is divided in equal shares among all the legal heirs. The authority issues a notice, seeking any claims on the property to be distributed among legal heirs, after the death certificate is issued. Legal heirs can decide among themselves the shares or in case of dispute the court has to adjudicate the matter as per the law," explains RK Singh, a Supreme Court lawyer.

The section 30 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 explains intestate as- a person is deemed to die intestate in respect of all property of which he has not made a testamentary disposition or in other words, he has left no will. 

"In India, the life and death of a person is governed by his personal laws or religious laws. Hence, the property is distributed as per Hindu succession or Muslim succession laws etc. However, with that being said, as per the Indian Succession Act, 1925, if a person dies intestate, the property is divided equally between his surviving legal heirs. For example: a person dies intestate, and leaves behind a wife, a son and a daughter, then his property shall be divided equally between them ie, one third each," says Nikhil Arya, a Delhi High Court lawyer, handling property cases. 

Partition of property

A person makes a Will while he is alive so it is clear who gets what in his or her property after his death. However, it is not mandatory as per the law to make a Will.

"If a person dies without making a Will then all his legal heirs have to jointly file a succession suit to get equitable partition of the property. Without a Will the position of your inheritance becomes weak and unclear, often leading to family disputes. The partition happens as per the personal laws of Hindus, Muslim and Transfer of Property Act, 1882," adds Bittu K Singh, a Supreme Court lawyer. 

A legal document is necessary to distribute property shares among your legal heirs. Often we keep delaying making this important document but you can always change a Will during your lifetime. But after death, this document makes a lot of sense for your legal heirs for mutual partition of your property.


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