Inheritance Rights of Stepchildren


As a matter of common sense, inheritance is the belief that a person's property, debts, assets, rights, duties, and titles should be transferred to his or her lawful heir upon death. Indian Succession laws differ, as do religions and societies, so the inheritance can either be exercised by employing the relevant laws or through a "will." Though they may vary depending on the society or religion, all succession rules are not always the same.

The laws that control India's inheritance laws are The Hindu Succession Act, of 2005, the Indian Succession Act of 1925, Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act of 1937, and they depend on the sort of religion and succession of a family. A secular nation like India must accept many different religions and their legitimate customs due to its diverse religions.

Rights of Children of Divorced Couples

Under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, children born to your divorced spouse are legally considered your legal heirs, as defined under Class I legal heirs. Even if you do not have custody of your children and are not related to them, they will still be entitled to inherit your property unless you make a succession plan and state otherwise.

While you may have settled the alimony and maintenance matter with your divorced partner, children from the divorce will have the same right over the properties as other legal heirs. When you remarry, change your relationship, or want to distribute assets differently, you must create a succession plan. The right to inherit belongs to your biological children.

Rights of Stepchildren

According to the provisions of the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956, neither a 'son' nor a 'stepson' is defined; therefore, the expression has always been open to interpretation by the courts. As with the Class I heirs list, the term 'son' appears as well; however, a separate entry is not included that specifically includes the term 'stepson'.

According to consensus, the term "son" undoubtedly includes natural, adopted, and even illegitimate sons, even though the rules for succession to a father's property are quite different for each.

By legal fiction (under Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956), a child born out of a void marriage is considered to be the legitimate son of his father, even if he is illegitimate. In this legal fiction, he is only allowed a share of the father's self-acquired property, whereas a legitimate child would have coparcenary rights that would accrue to him by birth. 

However, such a son shall still be considered a son as per the definition of the son under the Hindu Succession Act, of 1956.

In Lachman Singh v. Lachman Singh, there was some subtlety to the inquiry concerning whether "step-children" could be included in the outflow "child" in Section 15(1)(a). There was a contention that under the Act, the child of a woman who married a second spouse would not inherit her 'second spouse's bequests on his diminishing intestate under Kripa Singh (AIR 1987 SC 1616). A tyke was born at the time of the case and a stepson is treated differently according to the law.

As it was, before the Act came into effect, a stepson, i.e., a child of the spouse of a lady by an alternate wife, was not entitled to inherit the lady's Stridhana when she died. When such situations arise, the child she carries in her womb will likely have a clear priority over the stepson she bears. Consequently, it was found that Parliament might have clarified its intention in the Act if it expected such a radical departure from past practice.

In the case of Father

When a father has a stepchild, this is the child born from his wife's previous marriage. Such a child cannot be a coparcener because he is not a lineal descendant of the same ancestor. Hence, such a child has no right to the coparcenary property of the family. When a male dies intestate, the property will be devolved to his heirs under section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act. Usually, the stepchildren which can be a son or daughter are not mentioned in the will giving them no right to the property of the father. However, such a stepchild can gain rights in the property procured by his or her mother acquired from the father. After the death of the mother, it can be passed on to the child. 

In the case of Mother

In the case of the mother, the stepchild will be the child produced by the husband from the previous marriage. Mothers themselves have a share in the inheritance of their father's ancestral property, and their children have a right to it as well. 

A claim can be made by them post the death of the mother on the pretext of being an heir to the mother. No right is given to a child if it is a stepchild of the mother. 

The stepchild of a deceased mother receives a right in the ancestral property not as the heir of the mother, but as the heir of her husband (mother) as per section 15 of the HSA. Therefore, stepchildren shall have limited rights in the property of their ancestors. 


When people get divorced, remarried, have children from another partner, etc., their succession plans are often not revised, which can result in their assets being distributed against their wishes. A will should be prepared to distribute the assets that should include all of your children from and outside your marriage or previous partners. 

When one is disinheriting their stepchildren, they should always keep in mind their maintenance responsibility and while doing so, you need to consult with a property lawyer to ensure that the necessary legal steps are followed and the reasons for disinheritance are properly documented. However, one should always keep in mind that after their death, their will becomes public, and it becomes a subject matter of challenge among the legal heirs in the future.