Executor Vs Administrator | What's The Difference?
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Executor vs. Administrator, how do we differentiate? In the Philippines, a problem arises when one member of the family dies, with or without a will. Accordingly, courts of competent jurisdiction will come into the picture, as well as the executor or administrator, upon the death of the testator, to settle the estate of the latter.

The executor or administrator has the important role in succession as provided in the Rules of Court. Such rules govern the appointment, rights and duties, obligations of an executor or administrator, and manner of administration.

More significantly, it is specifically indicated in Article 881 of the Civil Code that:

Art. 881. The appointment of the administrator of the estate mentioned in the preceding article, as well as the manner of the administration and the rights and obligations of the administrator shall be governed by the Rules of Court.1

Executor vs Administrator

There is a distinction between executor and administrator. The Executor is the person appointed in the Will. He shall take charge in executing the provisions of the Will, thus, carrying out the wishes of the testator.2

While an Administrator is a person appointed when there is no will. Hence, it may follow that, in the settlement of the estate of the deceased without a Will, there can be no executor. However, an administrator will be appointed if it is really required. Such an administrator will be given letters of administration.3

Consequently, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court laid down those person that are incompetent to serve as executors or administrators such as:

Sec. 1. Who are incompetent to serve as executors or administrators. – No person is competent to serve as executor or administrator who:4

(a) Is a minor;5

(b) Is not a resident of the Philippines; and5

(c) Is in the opinion of the court unfit to execute the duties of the trust by reason of drunkenness, improvidence, or want of understanding or integrity, or by reason of conviction of an offense involving moral turpitude.5

Incidentally, there can likewise be a situation, wherein there is a will and yet no appointed executor therein. In this instance, if there is a need to administer the estate, an administrator shall be appointed by the Court. He is called an Administrator with a Will Annexed.

The position of an executor or administrator is one of trust.6 Being such, he or she takes charge immediately upon the death of the testator to execute the wishes of the latter or to execute the laws in connection with the subject of settlement of the estate of the deceased.

The case of Pimentel vs. Palanca stresses that “during the period of administration the heirs, devisees, and legatees have no right to interfere with the administrator or executor in the discharge of his duties. They have no right, without his consent, to the possession of any part of the estate, real or personal.7

“The theory of the present system is that the property is all in the hands of the court, and must stay there until the affairs of the deceased are adjusted and liquidated, and then the net balance is turned over to the persons by law entitled to it.”8

In the case of Father Emiliano Mercado vs. Maria Gorordo Viuda De Jaen, et. al.,9 the Supreme Court has emphasized the importance of appointing the executor or administrator to take charge of the estate to protect its interests and to later enforce compliance with the will of the testator. Supreme Court further discusses on the abovementioned case that:

“When the retired bishop Monsignor Juan Bautista Perfecto Gorordo chose Father Emiliano Mercado as executor and administrator of his estate after his death, he must have had good and sufficient reasons therefore, and his will must be respected. The evidence shows that when the deceased bishop made his will naming said priest in preference to anybody else, he was in the full enjoyment of his intellectual faculties.”10

Additionally, in the case of Estate of Olave vs. Reyes,11 the Court held that:

“The purpose of presentation of claims against decedents of the estate in the probate court is to protect the estate of deceased persons. That way, the executor or administrator will be able to examine each claim and determine whether it is a proper one which should be allowed.12

“Further, the primary object of the provisions requiring presentation is to apprise the administrator and the probate court of the existence of the claim so that a proper and timely arrangement may be made for its payment in full or by pro-rata portion in the due course of the administration, inasmuch as upon the death of a person, his entire estate is burdened with the payment of all his debts and no creditor shall enjoy any preference or priority; all of them shall share pro-rata in the liquidation of the estate of the deceased.”12

Disposition is subject to a suspensive condition

The institution of an heir is sometimes subject to a condition before he or she can inherit the property given to the latter by way of testamentary disposition. A condition, therefore, is an operative fact or event that the heir must meet in order to legally possess the inherited thing.

To protect the testator’s estate during the time that the condition is being fulfilled, the law expressly states that the testator’s hereditary estate shall be subject to administration. The estate will be under administration until the fulfilment of such condition, which in this instance, a suspensive one.

Furthermore, Article 880 of the Civil Code shall apply when the estate is placed under the administration, thus:

Art. 880. If the heir be instituted under a suspensive condition or term, the estate shall be placed under administration until the condition is fulfilled, or until it becomes certain that it cannot be fulfilled, or until the arrival of the term. The same shall be done if the heir does not give the security required in the preceding article.13

Article 880 provides the three (3) situation when the estate be placed under the administration, such as:

First, until the condition is fulfilled.14

Second, until it becomes certain that it cannot be fulfilled.15

Third, if the heir does not give the security required.15

For instance, Y is the testator wherein he instituted X as heir of his ten (10) motorcycles. Moreover, the ten motorcycles are subject to the suspensive condition that X must pass the Bar examination within the period of three (3) years from the time of the death of the testator. Applying the situation set forth in Article 880, the result could be:

(1) Pending the fulfilment of X in passing the Bar examination, the estate will be under the administration. If X passes the Bar examination within three years, X will be entitled to the ten motorcycles.

(2) Pending the non-fulfilment of X passing the Bar examination, the estate will also be under the administration. Thus, if X does not pass the Bar examination within three years from the time of the death of testator Y, Y’s legal heir will be entitled on the subject estate.

Suspensive Term

It is different in case the disposition or the institution of an heir is subject to a suspensive term. The law provides that, prior to the arrival of the term, the inherited property shall first be in the possession of the testator’s legal heirs.

However, the legal heirs, before they too can take possession, must post a security in favor of the instituted heir to protect his rights and interest over such inherited estate.

The designation of the day or time when the effects of the institution of an heir shall commence or cease shall be valid. In both cases, the legal heir shall be considered as called to the succession until the arrival of the period or its expiration. But in the first case he shall not enter into possession of the property until after having given sufficient security, with the intervention of the instituted heir.16

Administration of the Estate

The administrator shall be appointed if there is no executor indicated on the will or those incompetent person laid down under Section 1, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court. The appointment of the administration is the one resolved by the Court in the proceeding, not the one who is entitled to the estate. It was explained in the case of Ngo The Hua vs. Chung Kiat Hua, et. al.,17 which stresses that:

“Let it be made clear, that what the lower court actual decided and what we also decide is the relationships between the deceased and the parties of claiming the right to be appointed his administrator, to determine who among them is entitled to the administration, not who are his heirs who are entitled to share in his estate.18

“This issue of heirship is one to be determined in the decree of distribution, and the findings of the court in the case at bar on the relationship of the parties is not a final determination of such relationships as a basis of distribution.”18

Subsequently, Section 6 of the aforementioned Rule provides the preference in appointing the administrator.

Sec. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. – If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:19

(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;5

(b) If such surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve;5

(c) If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.5

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules Court indicated the phrase “next of kin”, which is defined in the case of Testate Estate of the Late Gregorio Ventura Maria Ventura vs. Gregoria Ventura,20 are those persons who are entitled under the statute of distribution to the decedent’s property.21

The Supreme Court held that:

“It is generally said that “the nearest of kin, whose interest in the estate is more preponderant, is preferred in the choice of administrator. Among members of a class the strongest ground for preference is the amount or preponderance of interest. As between next of kin, the nearest of kin is to be preferred.” (Cabanas, et al. vs. Enage et al., 40 Off. Gaz. 12 Suppl. 227; citing 12 Am. Jur. Sec. 77, p. 416, cited in Francisco Vicente J., The Revised Rules of Court in the Philippines, Vol. V-B 1970 Ed., p. 23).”22

Additionally, the law provides specifically that married women may also serve to be the executrix or administratrix. It is set forth under Section 3 of Rule 78 of the Rules of Court:

Sec. 3. Married women may serve. – A married woman may serve as executrix or administratrix, and the marriage of a single woman shall not affect her authority so to serve under a previous appointment.23

Special Administrator

In the administration of an estate, there is also a proceeding considered “urgent” that needs an appointed administrator immediately. The so-called “special administrator” enters the proceeding. Appointing a special administrator is to prevent the delay.

The provisions of the Rules of Court are to be interpreted liberally in order to promote their objective of securing a just, speedy and inexpensive disposition of every action and proceeding.24  It was discussed in Section 1, Rule 80 of the Rules of Court which provides that:

Sec. 1. Appointment of special administrator.- When there is delay in granting letters testamentary or of administration by any cause including an appeal from the allowance or disallowance of a will, the court may appoint a special administrator to take possession and charge of the estate of the deceased until the questions causing the delay are decided and executors or administrators appointed.25

In the case of Diana C. Gozum vs. Norma C. Pappas,26 it defines Special Administrator as:

“A special administrator is a representative of the decedent appointed by the probate court to care for and preserve the estate until the appointment of the executor or administrator. He is considered an officer of the court who is in charge of the estate, not a representative of the agent of the parties recommending his appointment.27

“Hence, he is subject to the probate court’s supervision and control and is expected to work for the best interests of the entire estate, particularly towards its smooth administration and earliest settlement.”27

In the case of Garcia Fule vs. Court of Appeals,28 held that the preference of appointing the special administrator is always for the beneficial interest of the appointee in the estate of the decedent.


“Nevertheless, the discretion to appoint a special administrator or not lies in the probate court. That, however, is no authority for the judge to become partial, or to make his personal likes and dislikes prevail over, or his passions to rule, his judgment.29

“Exercise of that discretion must be based on reason, equity, justice and legal principle. There is no reason why the same fundamental and legal principles governing the choice of a regular administrator should not be taken into account in the appointment of a special administrator.29

“Nothing is wrong for the judge to consider the order of preference in the appointment of a regular administrator in appointing a special administrator. After all, the consideration that overrides all others in this respect is the beneficial interest of the appointee in the estate of the decedent.”29

Settlement of the Estate of the deceased

The purpose of appointing an executor or administrator is to execute and implement the wishes of the testator. Delay is being avoided in transferring the estate to the heir, legatee or devisee. It is further discussed in the case Epifanio San Juan, Jr., vs. Cruz30 that:

“The heirs of the estate of Oscar Casa do not need to first secure the appointment of an administrator of his estate, because from the very moment of his death, they stepped into his shoes and acquired his rights as devisee/legatee of the deceased Loreto San Juan.31

“Thus, a prior appointment of an administrator or executor of the estate of Oscar Casa is not necessary for his heirs to acquire legal capacity to be substituted as representatives of the estate. Said heirs may designate one or some of them as their representative before the trial court.”31

Extrajudicial settlements by agreement between heirs32 and summary settlement of the estate of small value33 are set forth to proceed summarily without the need of an executor or administrator to execute the award of the estate to its heir, legatee or devisee.

Primordial objective

The case of Castillo vs. Enriquez34 stresses that “the primordial purpose of the law relative to the settlement of estates which is none other than to strive to have the estate settled in a speedy manner so that the benefits that may flow therefrom may be immediately enjoyed by the heirs and beneficiaries. It is therefore not strange that the petitioner should not come to this Court to ask for relief from an act of unfairness which he believed was committed against him by the trial court.”35

It is further explained in the case of Sikat vs. Viuda de Villanueva36 that “the speedy settlement of the estate of deceased persons for the benefit of creditors and those entitled to the residue by way of inheritance or legacy after the debts and expenses of administration have been paid, is the ruling spirit of our probate law.”37

In the end, speedy settlement of the estate based on the wishes of the testator or in accordance with the law is the ultimate goal of the provisions of Articles 880-881 of the Civil Code of the Philippines.

  1. Art. 881, Civil Code of the Philippines[]
  2. Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated, Edgardo L. Paras, Sixteenth Edition, 2008, p. 279[]
  3. Ibid., p. 280[]
  4. Section 1, Rule 78, Rules of Court[]
  5. Id.[][][][][][]
  6. Estate of the deceased Fruto Santos Macario Sulit vs. Fausta Santos et al., G.R. No. 34895, March 15, 1932[]
  7. Juana Pimentel vs. Engracio Palanca, G.R. No. 2108, December 19, 1905[]
  8. Ibid.[]
  9. G.R. No. L-43594, February 8, 1937[]
  10. Ibid.[]
  11. G.R. No. L-29407, July 29, 1983[]
  12. Ibid.[][]
  13. Article 880, Civil Code of the Philippines[]
  14. Id., Article 880, Civil Code[]
  15. Id.[][]
  16. Article 885, Civil Code of the Philippines[]
  17. G.R. No. L-17091, September 30, 1963[]
  18. Ibid.[][]
  19. Section 6, Rule 78, Rules of Court[]
  20. G.R. No. L-26306 April 27, 1988[]
  21. Ibid., citing Cooper vs. Cooper, 43 Ind. A. 620, 88 NE 341[]
  22. Ibid.[]
  23. Section 3, Rule 78, Rules of Court[]
  24. Gochan, et al. s. Young, et al., G.R. No. 131889, March 12, 2001[]
  25. Section 1, Rule 80, Rules of Court[]
  26. G.R. No. 197147, February 03, 2021[]
  27. Ibid.[][]
  28. G.R. No. L-40502, November 29, 1976[]
  29. Ibid.[][][]
  30. G.R. No. 167321, July 31, 2006[]
  31. Ibid.[][]
  32. Section 1, Rule 74, Rules of Court[]
  33. Id.[]
  34. G.R. No. L-11440, September 30, 1960[]
  35. Ibid.[]
  36. G.R. No. 35925. November 10, 1932[]
  37. Ibid.[]

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