Ordinarily, an undivided Hindu Family is joint, not only in estate, but also in food and worship. However, the existence of joint estate is not absolutely necessary to constitute a joint family, and it is possible to have a joint Hindu family which does not own any estate. But, if joint estate exists, and the members of that family become separate in estate, the family ceases to be joint.
Mere severance in food and worship does not, however, operate as a separation. (Chowdhry Ganesh Dutt v. Jewach, 1904 31 I.A. 10)
Thus, although a Hindu family is presumed to be joint (in food, worship and estate), there is no presumption that it possesses joint property or any property at all. This would have to be proved by producing affirmative evidence to that effect. (Ram Narain Chand v. Purnea Banking Corporation Ltd., A.I.R. 1953, 110)
Thus, a joint Hindu family does not consist of male members only. It may consist, for instance, of a single male member and widows of the deceased male members. Likewise, it may consist of one male and one female member, e.g., a brother and his unmarried sister, or a son and his mother (provided the female member is entitled to a share or to maintenance), or it may consist even of two or more surviving females, as for instance, two or more widows, or an unmarried daughter and her mother, and so on.
A joint Hindu family, as such, has no legal entity which is distinct and separate from that of the members who constitute such a family. In this sense, it is different from a corporation or a company which is considered to be a distinct legal person in the eyes of law.
A joint Hindu family is a unit to which no outsider can be admitted by consent of the parties concerned. It is a status which can be acquired only by birth or by adoption, and in the case of women, by marriage. Such a joint family may be broken up by separation of individual members or by a partition amongst all the members. Such a separating member would then form a new family with his descendants, and a new joint family would come into existence.