Inheritance Law Philippines
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  • Inheritance Law Philippines – Heirs & Distribution Explained | What Is Legal Or Intestate Succession?

Under the Inheritance Law in the Philippines, when a Filipino Citizen dies, whether he is living in the country or outside thereof, without a last will and testament, legal or intestate succession shall set in to finally and ultimately dispose of all the properties he or she had left upon his or her death. The Philippine Law on Intestate Succession, consequently, we shall discuss.

Simply stated, there will be legal or intestate succession if the decedent dies without leaving any last will and testament. Thus, the law will step in to distribute, based on the deceased’s presumed will, the inheritance in favor of his or her compulsory heirs.

Then, if the compulsory heirs are not available, the estate shall be divided and given to the other heirs who are accurately termed as legal heirs, as we shall be explaining later. Although, compulsory heirs can loosely be regarded, likewise, as legal heirs or be included in such term.

The Succession Law that will govern when a Filipino Citizen dies is the Philippine Law or the National Law of the decedent at the time of his death. The basis for this are Articles 16 and 1039 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which provide that:

Article 16. Real property as well as personal property is subject to the law of the country where it is situated.

However, intestate and testamentary successions, both with respect to the order of succession and to the amount of successional rights and to the intrinsic validity of testamentary provisions, shall be regulated by the national law of the person whose succession is under consideration, whatever may be the nature of the property and regardless of the country wherein said property may be found.

And:

Article 1039. Capacity to succeed is governed by the law of the nation of the decedent.

Hence, if a former Filipino Citizen joins his Creator as a Naturalized American, even though the properties are located in the Philippines, the American Law shall govern the succession i.e. the capacity of the heirs to succeed the decedent [or testator], the probate of a will [if he or she left one], the determination of who will inherit, and the amount of successional rights each heir will receive.

By the way, “Testator” means also a “Decedent”, although this time, he or she executed a last will and testament prior to his or her demise.

Who are the Compulsory Heirs of the Decedent?

Compulsory heirs are those individuals who are, by law, the rightful successors to all the properties of the decedent and for which the law reserves to them a portion of the inheritance called the legitime. This share, unless repudiated and/or validly taken by the law itself from the subject compulsory heirs, is immutable and untouchable.

Under the New Civil Code, it states that:

Article 886. Legitime is that part of the testator’s property which he cannot dispose of because the law has reserved it for certain heirs who are, therefore, called compulsory heirs.

Even the decedent himself or herself cannot dispose of the part of this inheritance reserved for his compulsory heirs during the former’s lifetime by any form of conveyance, alienation, or transfer, much less touch and distribute the same mortis causa in favor of another person.

Under the law on succession, the following are the compulsory heirs in relation to the decedent, namely:

If the Decedent is Legitimate

  • Legitimate child, children, or descendants
  • Legitimate Ascendants [however, the presence of the first class will exclude them]
  • Illegitimate child or children
  • Surviving Spouse

If the Decedent is Illegitimate

  • Legitimate child, children, or descendants
  • Illegitimate child or children or descendants [whether legitimate or illegitimate]
  • Illegitimate parents [however, the presence of both the first & second class will exclude them]
  • Surviving spouse

Who are the Legal Heirs [not being compulsory]?

Other legal heirs, not being compulsory ones, do not have legitime. Thus, if the decedent does not have any compulsory heirs, he can alienate, convey, transfer, or sell all of his property inter vivos to any person whomsoever he deems to convey, alienate, transfer, or sell it without any restriction, even if he or she has legal heirs (not compulsory ones) surviving at the time of his death.

Likewise, the decedent can give all his property to any person not his legal heirs through his last will and testament, even to the point of excluding from his estate his legal heirs, who are not compulsory successors, without violating the law on succession.

At the outset, it must be noted that the presence of compulsory heirs, other than the surviving spouse, will exclude all other legal heirs. The class of legal heirs will also be affected by the status of the decedent, meaning, if the decedent is legitimate or illegitimate.

Thus, the surviving spouse may concur with the other legal heirs not compulsory in the line of succession. For instance, the deceased, whether he or she is legitimate or not, has no:

  • legitimate child, children, or descendants, or
  • legitimate parents or ascendants, or
  • illegitimate child, children or descendants, or
  • illegitimate parents

Yet, the decedent has a surviving spouse and brothers and sisters. In this instance, the wife and the relatives, who are the brothers and sisters in this situation, will concurrently inherit from the deceased in legal or intestate succession, subject to the rules on distribution.

If the Decedent is Legitimate, the other Legal Heirs are as follows:

  • Brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces
  • Other collateral relatives within the fifth (5th) degree
  • The State

If the Decedent is Illegitimate, the other Legal Heirs are as follows:

  • Brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces
  • The State

Hence, it can be noticed that the other relatives within the fifth (5th) degree are excluded if the decedent is illegitimate.

What is the Order of Intestate Succession?

In this regard, as briefly tackled above, we have to determine first whether the decedent is legitimate or not before we can accurately find out what order of intestate succession we will be applying in a given situation.

Thus, if the person who dies without a last will and testament and who has left something for his surviving heirs is legitimate [regular order], here is the order of legal succession that we will apply, to wit:

Legal or Intestate Succession | Regular Order

First:

Legitimate child, children, or descendants

Second:

Legitimate parents or ascendants

Third:

Illegitimate children or descendants

Fourth:

Surviving spouse

Fifth:

Brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces

Sixth:

Other collateral relatives within the fifth (5th) degree

Seventh:

The State

On the other hand, if the deceased is illegitimate [irregular order], here is the order of legal succession that is applicable, to wit:

Legal or Intestate Succession | Irregular Order

First:

Legitimate child, children, or descendants

Second:

Illegitimate child, children, or descendants

Third:

Illegitimate parents

Fourth:

Surviving spouse

Fifth:

Brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces

Sixth:

The State

To stress the point, the regular order of intestate or legal succession happens when the decedent dies without a last will and testament and he or she is legitimate.

On the other hand, the application of an irregular order of intestate or legal succession takes place when the deceased is an illegitimate and he has no last will and testament at the time of his death.

The Rules of Exclusions, Preference, and Concurrence

In these Orders of Succession, whether the decedent is legitimate or illegitimate, some may be excluded and some may concur in the succession, as mentioned above with regard to the surviving spouse.

In connection with this rule, if the survivors are legitimate child, legitimate parents, surviving spouse, and brothers and sisters of the individual who dies, the rules are these:

Exclusion

The legitimate child, children, or descendants shall exclude the legitimate parents and ascendants.

Preference

The brothers and sisters shall not, likewise, inherit from their deceased brother if there are surviving heirs in the direct line. The surviving brothers and sisters are in the collateral line.

Hence, the rule on preference of line shall apply. Direct line shall be preferred over the collateral line.

Concurrence

Legitimate and illegitimate children concur with each other. They are not mutually exclusive in terms of succeeding in the inheritance from their parents, although subject to the rules on distribution and their respective shares under the law.

However, with regard to the surviving spouse, whether the survivors are in the direct [child, children, ascendants, parents, ascendants] or collateral line [brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, other collateral relatives], he or she shall concur with them, unless disqualified [disinherited, incapacitated, waiver (repudiation)].

On another point, nevertheless, if one of the heirs of the decedent is an illegitimate child or children, they cannot exclude the legitimate parents. They will concur with them and with the surviving spouse if the deceased does not have any legitimate child, children, or descendants.

The same principle is applied if the decedent is an illegitimate. In this case, the illegitimate child, children, or descendants can now exclude the illegitimate parents of the decedent.

Intestate Shares of the Compulsory, Legal Heirs in the Inheritance

The basis of intestate shares of all the regarded heirs, be they compulsory or legal heirs, is the the presumed will of the decedent.

Since the latter never executed any last will and testament before his death in order to communicate his desired distribution of the inheritance to his or her heirs, the law steps in to fill that void. As stated, the law now takes into account the presumed will of the deceased.

Table of Intestate Shares

SurvivorsShare Applicable Rule / Division
Any class aloneWhole EstateRule of Proximity [Article 962 of the New Civil Code (NCC)]
Legitimate Child, Children, Descendants

Legitimate Parents, Ascendants
Whole Estate



Excluded





Rule of Proximity/Exclusions [Article 962, NCC]
Legitimate Child, Children, or Descendants

Illegitimate Child, Children, or Descendants
Concurrence or Exclusion Theory/RuleConcurrence Theory - Satisfy their legitimes, and then distribute the disposable portion, if any pro-rata (10:5 ratio). Articles 895, 983, 996, 999, NCC; Article 176, 2nd Sentence, Family Code (FC)]
Legitimate Child, Children, or Descendants

Surviving Spouse
Surviving Spouse entitled to same share of each legitimate child-do-
Legitimate Child, Children, or Descendants

Illegitimate Child, Children, or Descendants

Surviving Spouse
Concurrence or Exclusion Theory

Note: The legitime of each illegitimate child shall consist of 1/2 of the legitime of a legitimate child [Article 176 FC]
Exclusion Theory - Satisfy their legitimes, and then distribute the disposable portion, if any pro-rata (10:5 ratio) [Articles 895, 983, 996, 999, NCC; Article 176 2nd sentence, FC]
Legitimate Parents

Illegitimate Children
1/2


1/2
If decedent is an illegitimate person, his natural parents are excluded by the presence of an illegitimate child or children, as the case may be
Legitimate Parents

Surviving Spouse
1/2


1/2
Same share in the event the decedent is an illegitimate person [Article 997, NCC]
Legitimate Parents

Illegitimate Children

Surviving Spouse
1/2


1/4


1/4
Article 1000, NCC
Illegitimate Children

Surviving Spouse
1/2


1/2
Article 998, NCC
Surviving Spouse

Brothers and Sisters, Nephews and Nieces
1/2


1/2
Article 1001, NCC
CollateralsWhole EstateArticles 1003 - 1010, NCC; Principle of Proximity
The StateWhole EstateArticles 1011 - 1014, NCC; Escheat Proceedings, Rule 92, Rules of Court

Table reference: Comments and Jurisprudence on Succession, 2009 Edition, Jurado, pp. 456-457

Table of Legitime of Compulsory Heirs

We have deemed to incorporate the table of legitime of compulsory heirs in order to easily compare the intestate shares in relation to the portion of the inheritance the law reserves for compulsory heirs.

SurvivorsLegitimate Child, Children, or Descendants [LC]Legitimate Parents or Ascendants [LA]Surviving Spouse [SS]Illegitimate Children [IC]
Any Class Alone1/21/21/2, unless the testator and the SS were married in articulo mortis and the testator died within 3months from the time of such marriage, in which case, the legitime of SS as sole heir is 1/31/2
All Classes - but only one LC1/2Excluded1/41/2 of that LC. If free portion is insufficient, divide equally among the IC
All Classes - but two or more LC1/2ExcludedEqual to that of the share of one LC1/2 of that LC. If free portion is insufficient, divide equally among the IC
Legitimate Ascendants

Surviving Spouse
-1/2*1/4-
Legitimate Ascendants

Illegitimate Children
-1/2**-1/4
Surviving Spouse

Illegitimate Children
--1/31/3
Legitimate Ascendants

Surviving Spouse

Illegitimate Children
-1/21/81/4

*If the Testator [Decedent] is an Illegitimate Person, his Natural Parents are also excluded by the presence of Illegitimate Children of the illegitimate testator.

**If the Natural Parents of the Illegitimate Testator concur with the Surviving Spouse, the legitime of the Natural Parents is 1/4 and the Surviving Spouse is also 1/4

Table reference: Comments and Jurisprudence on Succession, 2009 Edition, Jurado, p. 325

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RALB Law | RABR & Associates Law Firm

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  1. the surviving widow of my dead uncle wants to be a part of the inherited property from his dead parents,
    is legal? isn't the inherited property separate from the conjugal property they own. for clarification they don't have conjugal properties, only inherited from my grandparents.

  2. My spouse, who is phillipino has an interest in some real estate in the phillipines. Her parents passed away without a will and she has a 1/9 th share of the real estate. She has no interest in claiming her share of the real estate. She currently resides in the United Sates and would like to give her share of the property to her brothers and sisters. What does she need to do to make that happen? What forms and documentation are required?

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