Monetary issues and problems related to succession and inheritance are prevalent in India where family values and personal laws are intricately woven into every aspect of life. In many cases, parents are unsure of whether they are legally obligated to care for their children even after they have attained majority under the Indian Majority Act, 1875 and also whether the inheritance laws mandate that ancestral property must stay within the family. In India, there is no legally recognized concept of disownment and parents are legally obligated to financially support their children until they reach the age of 18 but after they attain majority, they are treated as independent adults and parents are not required to maintain them. On the question of property however, the process of disentitlement is a little trickier.
Types of property and right to disentitlement
Property can be broadly classified into two categories – self-acquired property and ancestral property. Self-acquired property is property that has been acquired through a person’s own hard work and effort while ancestral property is property acquired through inheritance or succession, most often by a Will. In the case of C. N. Arunachala Mudaliar v C. A. MuruganathaMudaliar[i]it was held that the property can only be ‘ancestral property’ if the father receives the property by being the son or descendant of the original owner. This means that the legal heir must have attained the property though succession and not through any other means like a gift deed.
A parent can deny their children the right to self-acquired property unless the child can prove that their funds or resources were used to acquire or develop the said property. In the case of ancestral property however, a legal heir cannot deny his child the right to claim their share of the property. In the United Kingdom, however, every person has the right to bequeath their property as they wish but according to the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act, 1975 any child, dependent, spouse or former spouse has the right to contest a Will if they feel that the estate does not make “reasonable provision” for them. The term “reasonable provision” is subjective but it has been interpreted to ensure ‘necessary means of life’ and not ‘luxury’.
Can a legal heir relinquish the right to ancestral property?
If property is self-acquired, a person can bequeath it to anyone as he pleases but if the property was acquired through succession or inheritance, the legal heir can choose to give it up only through a release deed which includes a written statement that all the subsequent heirs give up their right to the property as well. The Indian Succession Act, 1925, governs succession for Indian Christians, couples married under the Special Marriage Act and testamentary succession of Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. According to the Act, any legal heir can relinquish their rights to the ancestral property, or property acquired through a Will by executing a ‘deed of release’[ii]. A deed of release is a legal document used to renounce one’s claim against an inherited property for valid consideration and it can be executed towards anyone who has an interest in the specified property, regardless of whether they are co-parceners or not.[iii] The deed of release must be registered under the Indian Registration Act, 1908 for it to be legally recognized and valid. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956, says that only the right to ancestral property can be relinquished and if relinquished the children of such a person will not have any future claim over that property. However, there is no differentiation between self-acquired property and inherited property in the case of Christians, Muslims and Parsees so the legal heir has absolute right to relinquish his or her claim to the property.
Procedure to execute and register a release deed
According to Section 17 of the Indian Registration Act, 1908, a deed of release must be registered for it to be valid. The following steps must be taken for successful registration[iv]:
1. Draft the deed on a stamp paper that now costs Rs. 100 and ensure that every detail of the property, the transferor and the transferee is mentioned.
2. Present the deed before the Sub-Registrar of Assurances within whose jurisdiction the property is situated along with a registration fee.
3. Documents like identity proof, passport size photographs are needed along with the signatures of two witnesses.
A deed of release is irrevocable and can only be challenged on the grounds that consent to transfer was obtained by coercion, undue influence, fraud or misrepresentation as mentioned under Sections 15, 16, 17 and 18 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, respectively. The challenge can be filed in any civil court having jurisdiction and the person challenging the deed is bound by a limitation period of 3 years.
Even though disownment of children is not legally recognized in India, it can often take on the forms of disentitlement to property, exile or severance from the family. Since child marriages are still prevalent in India, parents get their daughters married so that they are not obligated to maintain her anymore as she will be taken care of by her husband’s family, and until the case of Danamma v. Amar[v] daughters did not have an equal right to their father’s property. Now, however, right to ancestral property has become a right shared by all legal heirs so deeds of release have become common in order to disentitle children from claiming their share to ancestral property.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i]C. N. Arunachala Mudaliar v C. A. MuruganathaMudaliar, (1954) SCR 243.
[ii]Disha Sanghvi, If legal heirs give up inheritance right, children can’t stake claim to property, Livemint, (August 20, 2019, 8:27 PM), https://www.livemint.com/money/personal-finance/if-legal-heirs-give-up-inheritance-right-children-can-t-stake-claim-to-property-1550671012180.html.
[iii]Athulya, Are Relinquishment deeds different from release deeds, VakilSearch, (August 20, 2019, 8:41 PM), https://vakilsearch.com/advice/relinquishment-deeds-different-release-deeds/.
[iv]Rebecca Furtado, All you need to know about registering a Relinquishment Deed, iPleaders, (August 20, 2019, 9:07 PM), https://blog.ipleaders.in/all-you-need-to-know-about-relinquishment-deed/.
[v]Danamma v. Amar, (2018) Civil Appeal No. 188-189 of 2018, SC.