Inherit Your Rights was initially founded to help protect widows who faced losing their property and inheritance after the death of their husband.
In many of the rural communities where we work, customary law often denies women the right to inheritance of property. Males such as sons, brothers or other male relatives are favoured over females (specifically widows and daughters) when it comes to the division of inheritance.
There are three degrees of inheritance under customary law:
• First degree: The largest portion, given to the oldest son
• Second degree: Split by all the other sons, divided according to age (older sons get more)
• Third degree: The smallest portion, split among the daughters, again according to age
As you may have noted, customary law provides no inheritance to widows, except as the administrator for property that their sons who are under 18 years old will inherit once they are adults. Daughters can only inherit the use of property- they cannot actually own the property.
However, statutory law protects women’s rights to own and inherit property. Under the Indian Succession Act, if a man does not leave a will when he dies, his property will be divided as follows:
• If he has a wife and no children, the widow will get half of the property, and the rest will go to his other relatives.
• If he has a wife and children, one-third of the property will go to the widow, and the other two-thirds will be split by his children.
• If there is more than one wife, they will split the widows’ portion of the inheritance equally, without regard for which wife was first or how many children they have.
At Inherit Your Rights, we help women and girls understand their rights around property and inheritance and help them prepare to avoid situations that may widows find themselves in down the track. We can also provide legal assistance to those facing inheritance disputes. Contact us today for more information.