MWP Act 1874-An act to safeguard women’s interests
Married Women’s Property Act or MWP Act 1874 – A few days back I asked one of my friends Mr Debasish to buy an online term life insurance policy for the protection of his family if any unprecedented incident happens with him.
Before buying a policy he did his own research and after a few hours, he called me back and asked me about Married Women’s Property Act or MWP Act 1874 which is linked with insurance policies.
I was completely clueless as I also bought term life insurance policy a few years back but had no idea about the MWP Act 1874 what so ever.
I think many of you are also unaware of the benefits of this MWP Act. While we are talking of women empowerment, I do strongly believe that this act is the ideal one to do justice to the women across India.
The government may take various initiatives to aware the Indian people about this Married Women’s Property Act 1874 just like what they did with Jago Grahak Jago campaign for consumer awareness.
I started doing my own research and found that every life insurance company comes with this MWP Act option, but one has to opt for this at the time of buying only. If the policy is bought without opting MWP Act benefits, you can not include this later.
In this post, I would discuss on Married Women’s Property Act India or MWP Act 1874, Who can take policy under MWP Act 1874? Who can be beneficiary under MWPA policy?
⇒What is Married Women’s Property Act India?
Married Women’s Property Act India or MWP Act 1874 was enacted in the year 1874 for safeguarding the financial rights and interests of the women. This Act is applicable to the whole of India except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
From time immemorial it has been a real challenge for every government to safeguard women’s fundamental rights in this male dominating world.
Whereas, the MWP Act which was enacted almost 146 years ago, can really act as an eye-opener for us. It talks about women economic empowerment and restoration of their fundamental rights.
MWP Act 1874 clearly states that if a married woman earns any income on her own capacity, that income is is to be treated as her separate property.
This clearly indicates that the earnings of women after her marriage, and any savings, or interests from that savings or investments are her separate property and her husband will not have any rights on it.
The MWP Act 1874 ensures to protect the properties of the married women from their creditors, relatives and even from their husbands.
⇒What is the Married Women’s Property Act 1874?
There are various provisions under the MWP Act 1874. But I would discuss the important and relevant points that are solely focused on benefiting women or married women rather.
→Section 4 of Married Women’s Property Act 1874:
Married Women’s Earnings: Section 4 of the Act clearly states that the wages and earnings of a married woman gained or acquired by her in any employment, occupation or trade carried on by her, are to be treated as her separate property and the husband does not have any rights on it.
Question: What else to be treated as her separate property?
- Money or other property so acquired by her through the exercise of any literary, artistic or scientific skill, and
- All savings from and investments of such wages, earnings and property, shall be deemed to be her separate property, and
- Her receipts alone shall be good discharges for such wages, earnings and property.
→Section 5 of Married Women Property Act 1874:
Married Women’s insurance policy: As per Section 5 of the MWPA, a married woman may buy an insurance policy on her own behalf independently of her husband.
In that case, the benefits of the policy so bought, if expressed on the face of it, shall ensure as her separate property and the terms and conditions of the policy contract shall remain same as if made with an unmarried woman.
→Section 6 of Married Women Property Act 1874:
Insurance taken by Husband for Wife: As per Section 6 of the MWPA, if a married man buys an insurance policy on his own life, and expressed on the face of it for the benefit of his wife or his wife and children or any of them, shall ensure and be deemed to be a trust for the benefit of his beneficiaries as the case may be, according to the interest so expressed.
Thus, as long as the object of the trust remains, the benefits of the insurance policy shall not be subjected to the control of the husband or to his creditors or form part of his estate.
⇒What does Section 6 say?
This MWP Act is not so popular among the Indians. However, the little bit of popularity this act gained is due to Section 6. As life insurance companies use this clause extensively.
In the year 1923, this MWP Act was amended to incorporate the insurance clause. Since then, this act may be utilised extensively for the financial protection of women.
An insurance policy effected by a married man on his own life and expressed on the face of it for the benefit of his wife, or of his wife and children, or any of them.
What does it mean?
This simply means once the policy is bought by the husband for his wife and children utilising the provisions of the MWP Act, the maturity proceeds or death benefits become the property of the wife and free from any attachment by what so ever means.
But the provisions of Married Women Property Act are for the greater interests and rights of the women. The idea behind this is to protect the fundamental and economical rights of the women.
It should not be looked into as the one and only tool for helping women in terms of receiving insurance proceeds after the maturity or husband’s death.
→Section 7 of Married Women’s Property Act 1874:
Rights to make legal proceedings: A married woman possesses the rights of making and maintain a suit in her own name for the recovery of the properties
Further, she shall be liable to such suits, processes and orders in respect of such property as she would be liable to if she were unmarried.
→Section 8 of Married Women’s Property Act 1874:
Wife’s liability to post-nuptial debts: As per Section 8 of the Married Women’s Property Act 1874 if a woman possesses a separate property of her own, and a person enters into a contract with her in reference to such property, if the situation so occurs, he might have the right to sue her and recover to the extent of separate property against her whatever he might have recovered in such suit had she been unmarried at the date of the contract.
→Section 9 of Married Women’s Property Act 1874:
Husband not liable for wife’s pre-nuptial debts: Section 9 clearly states that just because of marriage, a married person shall not be liable for the debts and liabilities of his wife contracted before marriage, but his wife shall be liable and be sued to the extent of her separate property.
⇒Who can take policy under MWP Act 1874?
Married Man: A married man whether divorced or widower may buy an insurance policy under the MWP Act 1874. The policy has to be taken on his own name only.
This would ensure that the policy benefits get transferred to the specified or special beneficiaries such as wife, children or both.
When an insurance policy is taken by a married man on his own name under the MWP Act, only his wife and children can claim the rights of the insurance proceeds only.
No other relatives, in-laws and even creditors can not have any legal rights on such insurance proceeds. This means this separate property of the wife is free from any kind of attachment.
Therefore, this Act ensures that after the death of the husband the insurance proceeds is the separate property of his wife and it can not be utilised to pay off the husband’s liabilities.
Married Woman: On the other hand a working married woman may also take an insurance policy on her own name by opting for insurance clause under the MWP Act.
In that case, she has to make her children as the beneficiary, who have the legal rights on the insurance proceeds and not any other persons or creditors.
⇒Who can be beneficiary under MWPA policy?
The Married Women Property Act allows you to buy a life insurance policy for meeting the financial needs of your family in the event of your unfortunate death.
It should be kept in mind that beneficiary so appointed at the time of buying insurance policy can not be changed during the life time of the policy. Once appointed, the beneficiary or beneficiaries will act as the trustee(s) of the insurance policy.
Therefore this act has been designed in a way that you can protect the interests of your family to look after their financial needs even when you are not there.
You can select the following persons as the beneficiary:
- Your wife; or
- Your children; or
- Both your wife and children.
Therefore, none other than the above-mentioned persons can be selected as the beneficiary under MWPA policy.
⇒Who is trustee in MWP Act?
Once the policy is taken by the policy-holder under the purview of the MWP Act, he may appoint one or more persons as the trustees.
Also, this trustee can be institutions like bank, charitable institutions or a single beneficiary. If you want to appoint a trustee for the policy, then you must take their consent along with MWP addendum.
⇒Why and How You should link insurance policy with MWP Act?
Since the objective of this Married Women Property Act is to safeguard the financial well being of the women, linking of insurance policy with the MWP Act would be of great help.
Linking of insurance policy with MWP Act: If you do so, the beneficiary is well defined from the beginning of the policy. Further, any unpaid debts after your death can not be paid from this insurance policy.
This means the creditors can not sue your wife for repayment of their outstanding amount from the insurance proceeds your wife would receive after your death.
This would ensure that your family’s financial needs would be met with the insurance proceeds even after your death. Thus, the very objective of buying life insurance gets fulfilled.
How you can link the insurance with the MWP Act: Linking your insurance policy with the MWP Act 1874 is not a very difficult task.
When you have decided to buy the policy under the Act, you have to fill up the MWP addendum form along with the insurance proposal form.
You can ask your insurance agent for this addendum form or even you can download this form from your insurance company’s website.
But you must remember that once you have added the beneficiary according to your choice, it can never be changed later at any cost.
The beneficiary will remain same up to the maturity of the policy or at the death of the policy-holder as per T&C of the insurance policy.
Married Women's Property Act-Pros and Cons
- The actual purpose of buying insurance is met
- Beneficiary is decided at the time of policy buying
- The insurance proceeds is the separate property of wife
- Free from any attachment by any creditors
- Helps in women empowerment and peace of mind
- Applicable for all Indian women across all religions.
- Policy buyer does not have any control on this except premium payment
- Beneficiary can not be changed during the entire policy term
- Creditors like Bank can not claim their outstanding loans on this proceeds
- In case of divorce, husband can’t change the beneficiary later
- One can not borrow money against this insurance policy