The Nature and Incidents of a Widow’s Estate under the Prior Hindu Law

When a female who succeeds as an heir, whether to a male or to a female, takes a limited estate in the property inherited by her, then on her death the property passes not to her heirs, but the next heir of the last full owner. This is the view of the Bengal, Ba­naras, Mithila and Madras Schools.

According to Bombay School property inherited by a female from a female and property inherited from a male by female heirs other than those come into the gotra of the deceased owner by marriage, is Stridhan. Females who come into the gotra of the deceased owner by marriage take a limited estate in the property inherited by them from a male and on their death the property passes to the next heir of the last fully owner.

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The expression “limited estate” is used in contradistinction to “stridhan” or “absolute estate”.

The female who is a limited owner is not a tenant for life but she is the owner of the property subject to restrictions on aliena­tion and subject to its devolving upon the next heir of the last full owner on her death. The whole estate for the time being is vested in her. She is the owner but with limited powers. In her life time no one has any vested interest in the succession.

The following is the main feature of a widow’s estate:

(i) She is the owner thereof, except that she cannot sell the corpus of the property or mortgage it, or make a gift of it, or grant leases thereof for a long term, or otherwise alienate it unless it be for legal necessity or for the benefit of the estate or with-the consent of the next reversioners. Where it is made for legal neces­sity or with the consent of the next reversioners, it passes an absolute estate to the alienee.

A widow holds the property as the legal representative of the husband. The estate is liable to be attached in execution of the money decree obtained against the husband.

Subject to those restrictions she holds the property absolutely. She may institute the suits in respect of property and she may be sued in respect thereof, and the decree passed against her are binding on her estate and the reversioners.

If she is dispossessed of the property by a third person she can sue to recover it, but if she fails to sue it and allows the adverse possession the reversioners are not affected by it. Upon her death within 12 years they can sue for possession.

She can sell her life-estate in the property or mortgage it or make a gift of it to any one she likes. She is entitled to the whole income and she can spend the whole income. She is neither bound to maintain her husband’s family members out of the income of the estate nor is she bound to perform their marriage ceremony out of the income. She can throw burdens to the corpus of the property.

The entire estate being vested in her, she is entitled to manage it, but she must manage it like a prudent owner. She must not commit waste or do any act injurious to the reversioners.

The limitations imposed upon her are inseparable from her estate even if there be no reversioners. Even in such case she cannot alienate except for legal necessity. The property will go to the State in case there is no reversioner.