Property can be divided into two categories:
- Ancestral property
- Self-acquired property
A person becomes the legal heir of a property by the virtue of birth in the particular family. He/she has an inherited claim in the property whereas the owner of a self-acquired property can will his property to any person he wishes. However, in the case of intestate deaths, even self-acquired property becomes a part of the ancestral property. Thus, what today is the ancestral property was once the self-acquired property of your grandfather or great-grandfather.
Definition of Ancestral Property
In legal terms, an ancestral property is a property that can be inherited up to the four generations of male lineage. Right to have a share in the ancestral property is a birthright as opposed to the other form of inheritance, where the legacy is established upon the death of the owner.
The claim of father and the son in the Ancestral Property
The father, who is the current owner of the property and his son has an equal share in the ancestral property. However, the property will be first divided among the siblings of first generation heirs and then the successive generation will be accorded share in the ancestral property of their respective predecessors. Thus, a father has all the right to disown his wards from his self-acquired property but cannot disown them from the property he has acquired from his ancestors as part of the ancestral property. It is to be noted, especially by NRI that they cannot be denied their share of property by their relatives. Even if the said NRI is born and brought up in a foreign country, which also means that he is the national of that country, he still has a right to his share in the ancestral property. And if denied, he can contest the claim in the court of law.
Daughters’ Right to the ancestral Property
Earlier, only the male members of a family had a right on the ancestral property according to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which had no mention of the daughter as an equal shareholder. But the act was amended in the year 2005. And the Hindu Succession(Amendment) Act, 2005 accorded the equal right to daughters on the ancestral property as to the sons. Thus, a NRI women, married or unmarried, also can stake a claim in the ancestral property of her father. She also has all the means available like a NRI men to get their rightful share.
Sons’ Right to Ancestral property
It is already established that a person has a legal claim on the ancestral property. However, it must be noted that a property ceases to be ancestral once it has been partitioned among the family members. Now, the partitioned share owned by a member becomes his self-acquired property and it is up to him if he wants to will it to his children or not. This cannot be contested by any of his kids in the court under the ancestral property right. As an NRI, you must be aware of your rightful claims and the various laws governing the property matters in India. And since it is not possible for you to have an in-depth knowledge of the laws of India, it is advisable to take advise from a specialised attorney.