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Married Women’s Property Act (MWP Act)

Married Women’s Property Act (MWP Act)

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    When you have a family, you always aim to provide for them so that they can fulfil all their needs. Therefore, even if something unfortunate were to happen, you would ensure that they can continue leading a comfortable life after your demise. This is irrespective of the gender and age of all your family members. However, in the past, there have been many instances where married women have been denied any financial benefits and rights in their husbands’ homes.

    This would be an even graver issue if the husband passed away, leaving nothing to his wife. Moreover, even if the woman had some finances or property in her name, there was no provision for her to protect any of it from her relatives, in-laws, or even creditors seeking repayment of her late husband’s debts.

    Hence, keeping the financial rights of married women in focus, the Married Women’s Property Act was enacted in 1874 to help women safeguard their own property or finances from lenders, creditors, and relatives. Let us know more about the MWP Act.

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    What is the MWP Act?


    The Married Women’s Property (MWP) Act of 1874 stated that a married woman’s property or earnings in India would be considered as her own separate property. However, in 1923, a life insurance amendment was added to the MWP Act, which made it possible for a married woman to get the benefits of an insurance policy in case of her husband’s demise.

    As per the amendment, the proceeds from the insurance policy taken by the husband would not be subject to the control of other entities such as creditors and lenders, any relatives or even the husband or his estate. The death benefits or the maturity benefits would solely be claimed by the married woman if the husband purchased the life insurance policy under the MWP Act.

    Hence, where regular life insurance policies do not have any such clause, a life insurance plan purchased by the husband under an MWP provision will ensure that only his wife or children are entitled to the proceeds from the insurance policy. These benefits may not even be used to repay his debts or other unpaid loans after his death.


    How Does the MWP Act Protect my Family?

    Family With Their Dog Enjoying Life After Buying Term Plan

    A life insurance plan is meant to protect your family during a time when you are around to provide financial support to them. Upon your demise, the death benefit of the insurance policy, which is the total sum assured, is paid out to your nominee/nominees so that they can continue fulfilling their financial obligations and goals even in your absence.

    However, there may be a chance that you may have incurred some debts during your lifetime. In case these are not paid back before your untimely demise, your family will have to shoulder the responsibility of these debts and loans. Your creditors and lenders may also want to claim your insurance benefits to settle their debts.

    Family With Their Dog Enjoying Life After Buying Term Plan

    Moreover, when it comes to your family, there could also be relatives who will want a share of the monetary benefits from the life insurance plan. In such cases, under the MWP Act, you can ensure that only your wife and children are entitled to receive the benefits. Here is how the MWP Act protects your family:

    • When you purchase the life insurance policy, ensure that only your wife and children are covered under the plan. You can do this by adding them as beneficiaries while purchasing the policy with an MWP mandate that cannot be altered. Having life insurance under the MWP Act, 1874 is valid for policyholders, irrespective of their religion.

    • As a policyholder, you can choose to divide your insurance policy benefits equally or on a percentage basis among your beneficiaries or bequeath the entire amount to a single nominee. However, this allocation has to be planned and decided at the time of purchasing the policy under the MWP Act, and there is no provision for making these changes later on.

    • You need not set up a separate trust fund for your nominees since the insurance policy will act as a trust under the MWP Act, 1874. You may choose to have a trustee manage the policy for your nominees, but this is an optional provision since only the trustee can file a claim for the policy benefits. If needed, you can name your wife as the trustee and the nominee to ensure that there is no misuse of the benefits.

    • When you purchase an insurance policy under MWP, it will have only a single title which means no other person acting on behalf of the nominees will be able to claim the benefits. This provision ensures that only the nominee selected by you can access the insurance proceeds.

    • Your relatives or creditors cannot claim the benefits of the policy that has been taken under this Act for your wife and children. Only your nominees can benefit from the proceeds of the policy.

    • In case you are a salaried individual or businessman with an outstanding loan or debt, your creditors may have the first right over the insurance benefits. However, these claims by creditors do not apply to all policies under the Act, and your nominees will continue to enjoy exclusive rights to the benefits.

    • In case there are family disputes in a joint family or a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), the MWP provision will protect the financial interests of your wife and children with a term policy taken under this Act. That way, even if your wife and children do not get any share of the family’s assets, they will still be supported by the proceeds of the policy covered by the MWP Act. However, do note that such an insurance policy is not considered to be part of your joint family’s assets.


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    How Do You Buy Term Insurance Under the MWP Act?
     

    If you want to purchase a term insurance plan under the MWP Act, the process is quite simple and convenient, quite similar to buying a regular term insurance policy. Here is how you can go about it:

    First, you will need to purchase the term insurance plan of your choice from your insurance provider.

    Once you are done, you will have to fill out the insurance proposal form.

    Under one section, you will be asked to choose if you are buying the term insurance under the MWP Act. Select “Yes” as your answer.

    After this, provide the nominee details such as their name, date of birth, their relationship to you and the percentage of the benefits to be given to them.


    Do note that you can only mention your wife and children as nominees under this Act, and so, after selecting this option, you may not name other family members as nominees.

    Who should opt for the Married Women's Property Act?

    If you are a married man, you can purchase a life insurance policy under the MWP Act for your wife and children. Similarly, if you are a married woman, you can opt for a policy under this Act to protect your children’s financial future. However, this provision is not restricted to only married partners. Even as a widower or a divorcee, you can choose to have a life insurance policy under the Act. Below is a list of who should opt for having a policy under this Act:

    • a salaried person with a loan
    • a business owner with debt
    • a member of a joint family
    • a member of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF)
    • anyone living on an unstable income
       

    By purchasing an insurance policy under this Act, you can protect your family from the burden of your debts and loans and ensure their financial security in case of your untimely demise before the end of the policy term.

    The MWP Act also requires you to add a trustee who is the primary beneficiary of the life insurance policy. It is the responsibility of the trustee to manage the policy for the actual beneficiaries, which are your wife and your children.

    When adding a trustee, ensure that they are above 18 years of age and that their consent for being mentioned as a trustee has been recorded in the MWP supplemental document. You can add, remove, or change a trustee as per your preference over the course of the policy term.
     

    • Who Can You Name as Beneficiaries in Insurance under MWP Act, 1874?

      The Married Women’s Property Act, 1874 was introduced to safeguard the property rights and financial rights of married women. Since even life insurance policies are considered to be assets under this Act, it is possible to protect your wife and your children with the help of an insurance plan covered by the Act. Here is how you can nominate your spouse and your children:
       

      Security For Your Child/Children Only

      If you want only your children to receive the benefits of the policy, you can name your children and divide the proceeds between them. Then, in the future, your children and their educational aspirations, careers and daily expenses can be fulfilled with the help of the policy benefits.

      Security For Your Wife and Kids

      The policy benefits can also be divided between your wife and your child or children. And the total cover can be divided on a percentage basis depending on the future needs of the nominated individuals. If your children are quite young, you can allot a larger percentage to your wife so that she can handle their educational needs as well as the household expenses.

      Security For Only Your Wife

      If you do not have children or they are grown up and earning well, you can choose to only nominate your wife and the entire term insurance plan proceeds will go to her as a death benefit in case of your untimely death. That way, she will be able to sustain herself without having to depend on loans or any other source of financial income.


    How to Get a Life Insurance Policy under MWP?

    As mentioned in the earlier section, you can choose to divide your insurance policy benefits between your wife and children, all your children/only child, or nominate only your wife.

    You can also choose to get a savings plan or endowment plan life insurance policy that is covered by the MWP. While the process is the same as buying a term insurance plan for your wife and children, here is how it is different when it comes to allocating the benefits:

    If and when you choose to surrender your savings or endowment policy, whatever benefits you earn from the surrender will go to the beneficiaries named in the policy. Since a savings plan comes with maturity benefits, these proceeds, too, will be paid out to your enlisted beneficiaries when you survive the term and are eligible for the benefits. Under a savings plan not covered by the Act, the surrender value would be paid out to you, while the maturity benefits are also paid out to you when you outlive the policy tenure.


    Benefits of the MWP Act

    While the objective of the MWP Act is to protect your wife and children in the face of difficulties, here are a few benefits of the Act that you should be aware of:

    Benefits

    • Once you buy an insurance policy under the Act, your family will be protected as per the provisions of the Act.
    • In India, the Act applies to all married women, regardless of their caste and religion.
    • The MWP Act empowers women by offering them financial security if their spouse cannot take care of them due to their demise or even a divorce.
    • The death benefits of the insurance plan under this Act will solely go towards protecting the financial interests of your wife and children and will not be misused in any way.
    • You need not create a separate trust fund for your wife and children since the Act ensures they will receive your insurance policy's benefits.


    What Other Laws did the MWP Act Enact?

    These are some of the other laws enacted by the MWP Act:

    • Right to Opt for Insurance

      The MWP Act also enables married women to purchase and own an independent life insurance policy. After marriage, a woman may not have to depend on her husband to buy an insurance policy. The benefits of the policy purchased by the woman can only be claimed by her. This is much the same as an unmarried woman owning a life insurance policy since, before the Act, married women could not hold independent contracts.

    • Ownership over Earnings

      As per the Married Women’s Property laws, a married woman’s earnings are her own property. If her earnings are independent of her husband’s earnings, she can pursue any trade or occupation, and the earnings will be her sole property. Hence, her husband or any other entity may not make any claims on her property or earnings, which also includes her savings or investments made in various avenues. These are all her legally protected property under the Act.

    • Initiate Legal Proceedings

      If a woman wants to initiate legal proceedings, the MWP Act empowers and enables her to do so. This provision was created to help women seek legal help independently to recover their separate property, whether acquired under the Indian Succession Act or the Married Women’s Property Act. The law allows the woman to initiate civil or criminal proceedings to regain her ownership.

    • Insurance for Married Women

      Earlier, before the introduction of the Act, if a married man passed away without clearing his debts, his creditors would claim his assets and property, which also includes life insurance policy benefits. However, through Section 6 of the Act, the proceeds from the life insurance policy taken by the man under this Act can only go to his wife and/or children and may not be claimed by his creditors.

    • Husband’s Liability for Breach of Trust

      The MWPA also explains the liability of the husband when his wife is nominated as the beneficiary and trustee of the life insurance policy. As per the provision, since the husband does not have any claim over the benefits or is not involved in the management of the life insurance policy, he cannot be liable in case of a breach of trust by his wife or if the proceeds are misused by her.

    • Husband’s Liability for Ante-Nuptial Debts

      The Act also discusses how the husband cannot be held liable for unpaid debts incurred by his wife before marriage. If an unmarried woman takes credit or a loan, her liability to be sued for the non-payment of the debts even after marriage will remain the same as an unmarried woman. Hence, the husband is not liable to repay debts after marriage unless by choice.

    • Liability for Post-Nuptial Debts

      The MWP Act 1874 also lists out all the liabilities of a married woman, along with listing out her rights. In this case, if a married woman chooses to enter a contract or an agreement regarding her property and does not uphold her repayments, the other person involved in the agreement can sue her for the losses, akin to suing an unmarried woman for the losses. 


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    FAQs About MWP Act

    If a life insurance plan is taken under the MWP Act, can I get a loan on the policy?

    While a regular life insurance policy may allow you to avail of a loan against the policy, you will not be able to take a loan against your life insurance policy under the MWP Act. In case you happen to meet an untimely demise and leave the pending debts behind, such a situation can endanger the security provided by the life insurance policy to your wife and children. This is why a policy under this Act does not enable the loan facility.

    Is it possible to buy more than one life insurance plan under the MWP Act?

    Yes, you can have more than one life insurance plan under the Married Women’s Property Laws. However, ensure that you are able to pay the premiums for the policies that you purchase so that the policy is in effect and your wife and children will be able to receive the benefits when needed.

    What will happen to the life insurance policy if my wife passes away before me?

    If your wife, who is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy, passes away before you do, the benefits of the policy will go to your legal heir. It is this person who can receive the policy benefits in case your wife does not.

    Can one surrender a policy that has been taken under the MWP Act?

    Yes, if needed, you can surrender your life insurance policy that is covered under the Married Women’s Property Laws. However, the beneficiaries should be informed of the process, and their signatures need to be present on the policy. After surrendering the policy, you will receive the benefits, which will be utilised for the benefit of your beneficiaries.

    Can the beneficiary of the policy be changed under the Act in case of a divorce?

    No, the beneficiary you have chosen while purchasing the policy cannot be changed. If the nominee is your wife, she will receive the policy benefits when the situation arises.

    Can I add my parents as nominees under the policy taken under the MWP Act?

    No, the MWP Act is a provision solely for your wife and children. You cannot cover your parents, relatives, or any other family members under a life insurance plan taken under this Act.

    If my wife has unpaid debts from before our marriage, do I have to repay them?

    No, under the MWPA provision, the husband is not liable to repay the wife’s unpaid debts from before the marriage unless he chooses to. Hence, if your wife is sued for the non-payment of credit or loans taken by her, the Act will protect you from being held liable for the same.

    Is it possible to add my wife as the trustee and the beneficiary?

    A trustee is added to the insurance policy under the MWP Act to manage the policy on your behalf in your absence. If you wish to name your wife as the trustee as well as the nominee, you are allowed to do so. In many cases, it is deemed safe to have the trustee and the nominee as the same person instead of involving a third person in the life insurance plan.

    Can my wife purchase her own life insurance and make the benefits her own property?

    Yes, your wife can also independently purchase a life insurance policy after marriage under the MWPA. The proceeds and the benefits will be claimed only by her as her sole property. In case of her death, she can choose a nominee at her convenience. The death or maturity benefits will not be used for repaying any of your debts or be claimed by your relatives.

    If my insurance policy offers survival benefits, who will be eligible for the maturity proceeds?

    If you have purchased a savings plan or an endowment plan under the MWP Act, the maturity proceeds will go to your nominee. This is unlike a regular savings plan where you can avail of the benefits if you survive the policy term.

    Disclaimers

    • The complete name of Tata AIA Sampoorna Raksha Supreme is Tata AIA Life Insurance Sampoorna Raksha Supreme (UIN:110N160V03) - A Non-Linked Non-Participating Individual Life Insurance Plan
    • *Applicable for specific plan options. Please refer brochure for additional details.
    • ~Applicable for specific plan options. Please refer brochure for additional details.
    • ++Tax benefits of up to ₹46,800 u/s 80C is calculated at highest tax slab rate of 31.20% (including cess excluding surcharge) on life insurance premium paid of ₹1,50,000. Tax benefits under the policy are subject to conditions laid under Section 80C, 80D,10(10D), 115BAC and other applicable provisions of the Income Tax Act,1961. Good and Service tax and Cess if any will be charged extra as per prevailing rates. The Tax Free income is subject to conditions specified under section 10(10D) and other applicable provisions of the Income Tax Act,1961. Tax laws are subject to amendments made thereto from time to time. Please consult your tax advisor for details, before acting on above.
    • %This plan offers pure risk cover under Life Option and return of premium benefit under Life Plus Option. Additional options are also available in this plan. Please refer sales brochure for complete details.
    • #Income Tax benefits would be available as per the prevailing income tax laws, subject to fulfillment of conditions stipulated therein. Income Tax laws are subject to change from time to time. Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Ltd. does not assume responsibility on tax implication mentioned anywhere in this document. Please consult your own tax consultant to know the tax benefits available to you.
    • $$ Illustrated Premium is the monthly premium excluding taxes for 20 yr. old female, Standard Life, Non-Smoker for 1 Cr. Sum Assured with Policy Term of 20 yrs. (Regular Pay) under Life Option. Please refer Benefit Illustration for more details. Premium is subject to applicable taxes, cesses & levies which will be entirely borne/ paid by the Policyholder, in addition to the payment of such Premium. Tata AIA Life shall have the right to claim, deduct, adjust, recover the amount of any applicable tax or imposition, levied by any statutory or administrative body, from the benefits payable under the Policy. Kindly refer the sales illustration for the exact premium.
    • This product is underwritten by Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Ltd.
    • The plan is not a guaranteed issuance plan, and it will be subject to company’s underwriting and acceptance.
    • Insurance cover is available under this product.
    • For more details on risk factors, terms and conditions please read sales brochure carefully before concluding a sale. The precise terms and condition of this plan are specified in the Policy Contract.
    • Buying a Life Insurance Policy is a long-term commitment. An early termination of the Policy usually involves high costs, and the Surrender Value payable may be less than the all the Premiums Paid.
    • In case of non-standard lives and on submission of non-standard age proof, extra premiums will be charged as per our underwriting guidelines.
    • This publication is for general circulation only. This document is for information and illustrative purposes only and does not purport to any financial or investment services and do not offer or form part of any offer or recommendation. This document is not and should not be regarded as investment advice or as a recommendation regarding any particular security or course of action. 
    • L&C/Advt/2023/May/1601