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  • Writer's pictureSoubir Bose

Secure the inheritance of your minor children

For a parent, there’s probably nothing more important than securing their children's future. Bank savings, immovable property, jewelry

, investments in the share market – people leave no stone unturned to ensure a comfortable, financially stable future for their children. But what about safeguarding the legacy that you want to leave behind for them – especially until they become adults legally? Protecting children’s inheritance is as important as planning investments for them. From a legal point of view, children can be divided into the following categories: Children of divorced parents, adopted children, illegitimate children, stepchildren, children born to live-in couples, and minor children. Let us now look at how Indian law has defined the inheritance rights of each of these categories.

Children of divorced couples & Stepchildren

The first and most important point to be noted is that, in the presence of a will, parents’ self-acquired property will go to the person(s) named in it. However, if a parent dies intestate (without leaving a will), children are the natural heirs. While different religions have separate inheritance laws, Hindu Succession Act, 1956 acknowledges children as Class I heirs. This holds true in the case of divorced parent

s as well. Children of divorced couples also enjoy rights over their parents’ ancestral property.

Many divorced couples choose to remarry. In such a scenario, do their children enjoy inheritance rights over their step-parents’ property? As per the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, stepchildren do not fall under the category of ‘son’ or ‘daughter’. Hence, they have no legal rights over their step-parents’ property if the latter dies intestate. So, if a step-parent wants to leave his property for his stepchild(ren), the only way to do so is through a will.

Adopted children

Once again, parents can leave their self-acquired property to anyone they choose in their will. If they die intestate, adopted children enjoy the same rights as biological offspring. Adopted children cannot stake claim over their biological parents’ property (as per the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956) unless the latter have written so in their will.

However, there are some circumstances in which adopted children can claim the inheritance of their biological parents’ property – if the assets had been inherited before the adoption, if the adoption took place because of the death of biological parents, or if an adopted child becomes dependent on their biological parents for whatever reasons.

Illegitimate children

According to Section 16 (3) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, illegitimate children can only stake claim over their parents’ self-acquired property and have no share in ancestral inheritance (unless a will has been written, bequeathing them something). Though a Supreme Court ruling in 2011 acknowledged an illegitimate child’s right over their ancestral property, in practice, there’s not much legal clarity on this front.

Live-in couple’s children

Marriage is a legal and social contract. So, what happens to the inheritance rights of children whose parents have not entered into this contract? While live-in relationships are not legally accepted in any personal law, a 2015 Supreme Court ruling stated that couples who have been in a live-in relationship for a long time can be considered married. So, their children will enjoy the same rights as a legal heir and can claim the inheritance of their parents’ self-acquired property under Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Minor children

A will attains extreme importance in the case of minor children. While minor kids are the legal heirs, they have no legal authority over it till they become 18 years old. That is, they own the property but cannot exercise any control over it. The property will be ‘managed’ by a legal guardian appointed by the court, in case the parents have not written a will, appointing a guardian of their choice. Another option is to set up a beneficiary trust for minor children so their inheritance can be protected until they become adults.

In all of the above scenarios, the one common point is the importance of making a will. If you have children, especially those who are minors, make sure to write a will for their sake and to secure their future. And registering a will is very easy, especially with EasyInherit at your service.

From creating an online portfolio of all your assets and providing legal assistance by a team of specialist lawyers to helping you out with claims submission, EasyInherit is your one-stop solution for all inheritance-related issues.

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