1. Introduction

Ancestral property has deep social, cultural and legal significance in India. It is intertwined with family inheritance traditions and rights. However, there are many nuances around the legal rights and implications that are often misunderstood, resulting in complex disputes.

This extensive guide aims to provide complete clarity on the meaning of ancestral property, associated legal rights across generations, governing laws and amendments, global comparisons, processes for claiming one’s share, tax implications, estate planning considerations, common misconceptions and key takeaways. This comprehensive guide will provide readers with an in-depth understanding of Indian succession law and the legal processes involved in claiming one’s share of ancestral property.

Ancestral Property: Concept and Rights

Now that we understand the broad classification, let’s delve deeper into the concept of ancestral property as per Indian laws and the associated inheritance rights of family members.

Legal Definition

The applicable law governing ancestral property of Hindus is the Hindu Succession Act, 1956. Section 2(ii) of the Act provides the following definition:

“Ancestral Property” refers to any property that is inherited from paternal ancestors up to 3 generations prior going back to the owner’s great grandfather. It should have remained undivided without partition of shares for these successive generations, and passed on to heirs by virtue of their birth in the family.

For example, if A inherits a property from his father B, who inherited it from his father C, and C from his father D, without any division of shares, this would qualify as ancestral property for A. The flow of succession is:

D -> C -> B -> A

Some key conditions for a property to be considered ancestral:

  • It traces back to a common male ancestor up to 4 generations from father’s side. Maternal ancestral property is not covered.
  • The line of succession is unbroken with no separation of shares between generations.
  • It passes down by virtue of birth to successors who become its joint owners. No other transfer through sale, gift etc. should take place.

Coparcenary Rights

The heirs in an ancestral property get coparcenary rights from the time of their birth. Earlier, only the male heirs in the joint Hindu family had coparcenary rights. The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 amended Section 6 to also provide coparcenary rights to daughters.


The senior-most male member is designated as the Karta. He has the principal role of managing the joint ancestral property and taking decisions regarding its usage. However, he requires consensus from other coparceners.

Rights of Members

The scope of rights of different members is important to understand:

  • The sons and daughters have equal coparcenary rights. They become coparceners at birth.
  • They have equal ownership rights in the ancestral property.
  • The Karta or eldest male member has management rights. But he cannot sell or transfer property without others’ consent.
  • The grandchildren also have equal share as the sons/daughters born or adopted in the family.
  • No member can dispose of his/her share through sale or gift without other coparceners’ consent.

In case of any conflict or dispute regarding these rights, legal recourse can be taken by members for partition or injunction.

4. Rights of Different Generations

Now that we understand the broad rights associated with ancestral property, let’s look at how these devolve across generations in the joint family.

Father and Son

  • The father holds coparcenary rights along with sons and unmarried daughters.
  • He is also the Karta and has management control rights during his lifetime.
  • The sons do not have rights to demand partition during the father’s lifetime. His share can only be claimed after his demise.
  • However, the father can relinquish his right of joint possession and go for partition of the property during his lifetime.
  • If partition happens during the father’s lifetime, each coparcener including the sons will get separated shares. If any son is not alive, his heirs would inherit his share.
  • If no partition takes place, after the father’s death his coparcenary share will devolve upon his sons and daughters equally.
  • Any property self-acquired by the father remains under his control during his lifetime. He can bequeath it to any heir as per his own wish.

Sons and Daughters

  • Earlier, daughters did not have a direct coparcenary claim in ancestral property as per Mitakshara school of Hindu law.
  • Since the 2005 amendment, daughters irrespective of whether married or unmarried have equal rights as sons in ancestral property.
  • Married daughters, even those who got married before 2005, have been granted coparcenary rights retrospectively.
  • After the father’s demise, sons and daughters will hold equal shares in the ancestral property.
  • The concept of limited estate no longer applies. Daughters have equal succession rights even as married women.


  • The grandchildren also acquire coparcenary interest in the ancestral property by birth. They hold rights equivalent to the sons and daughters.
  • If any coparcener is no longer alive at the time of succession, the share will pass on to his or her children rather than other coparceners.
  • The share of grandchildren is computed not based on their father’s share but as a first-generation coparcener with equal share as uncles/aunts.


  • Prior to the 2005 Amendment, the spouse had limited rights in ancestral property under Mitakshara school. She could only claim maintenance rights.
  • The 2005 amendment grants equal inheritance rights to spouse in all property of the deceased. This includes self-acquired as well as ancestral property, if partner died intestate.
  • If the deceased has left a will, the spouse still has right to maintenance and cannot be deprived beyond that.

The succession of ancestral property across generations can involve many intricacies based on specific family situations. It is advisable to consult a legal expert specializing in Hindu inheritance laws.

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