How are assets devolved in case of an intestate death? Let’s see how the law works through an example – an Indian Christian governed by The Indian Succession Act, 1925.

Example 1

The family: husband, wife and child

If the husband dies intestate (without a will), the assets are distributed equally between the wife and the child.

Example 2

The family: husband, wife and two children

If the husband dies intestate, the wife and two children each get a third share of the husband’s assets.

Example 3

The family: husband, wife and three children

If the husband dies intestate, the wife gets a third of the husband’s property.  The remaining two-thirds is distributed equally among the children.  The principle of 1/3 to the wife is upheld, even if there are more than three children.  There’s no distinction between male and female children, and married and unmarried children.

Then, what’s the moot point?

Let’s use example 4 to understand.

The family: husband (assets worth Rs one crore), wife and 18-year old child

If the husband dies intestate, the child inherits 50 lakh rupees worth of assets.  At 18, he’s an adult and can do anything he wants to with these assets.  But does he have the maturity to handle such money?

We have known cases where young people in their late teens or early twenties came into huge amounts of money and blew it all away or were cheated out of it, or took to alcohol and drugs.

We therefore advise most couples who have settled down in their marriages, to make a joint will, leaving everything to the surviving spouse. In case one of them dies, the surviving spouse can then make a separate will later.  Even if the surviving spouse fails to do this, the property goes equally to the children.

Is this what you should do too? Use this as food for though to decide.