Fate of a widow’s assets when she dies
18 Nov, 2022 . 4 min read

Fate of a widow’s assets when she dies

Omprakash & Ors. v Radhacharan & Ors.

[23 (2009) 15 SCC 66] 

This case was appealed before the Supreme Court of India to decide the legal heirs of Narayani Devi, the deceased. The appellants were the brothers of the deceased (Legal Representatives) since the original applicant was the deceased’s mother who died while the case was pending. Respondents were the sons of the sister of Narayani's husband.

In 1955, Smt. Narayani Devi got married to Shree Dindayal Sharma. Within three months of her marriage, she lost her husband. She was reportedly evicted from her marital home as soon as her spouse passed away. She never went back to her marital home after that.She completed her education at her paternal house and got a job. She died intestate on 11th July 1996. She had various bank accounts and left a good amount in her provident fund account. The court declared that the disputed properties were self-acquired.

Narayani's mother, Ramkishori, applied for a grant of succession certificate under Section 372 of the Indian Succession Act. The respondents also filed a similar application.

If any Hindu female dies without leaving a Will, her self-acquired property is distributed per Section 15 (1) of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. It first goes to the children and if they are not alive, then it goes to the heirs of her husband.

Though her in-laws did not support her, the Supreme Court of India stated that it can not decide only on the basis of mere sentiments. Since a clear law already exists, no other interpretation will get consideration. Ultimately, the appeal got dismissed, and the property went to her pre-deceased husband’s nephews. 

Lesson to Learn from the Above Case

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 is ancient and is not following the present scenarios. It is still not based on the notion that even women can have their self-acquired property.

Through the interpretation of Section 15, it is understandable that Section 15 (1) includes all the properties except properties inherited from parents, husbands, or in-laws. In case, if the female does not have any children, the scenario worsens. The priority is given to her husband’s heirs and not her parents. 

After reading the case, you must have felt that her paternal kin of the family should be the rightful heirs, given the assistance her parents delivered and the mistreatment she received from her in-laws. This case went on for 14 years. 

It only came to a sad conclusion for the appellant's family as Narayani's parents or siblings, who supported her during her hard times could not enjoy their daughter's possessions. All self-acquired property of Narayani fell into the hands of her pre-deceased husband's nephews.

The most important lesson from this case is that it does not matter how your relatives treated you in your lifetime. People will show up to claim your property as a legal heir. We always see such cases in movies. You will find such incidents every other day in the newspapers or the legal news.nci

The law is confusing, complex, and not following the present circumstances. Only writing a Will gives you the power to pass on your property to anyone you think should receive it after your death.Every woman who has properties in her name, whether self-acquired or inherited, if she has her absolute share in the property, she should always write that in a Will. No undeserving person should be able to claim your property. Make a Will now!

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