Opinion

Heir apparent

Heir apparent

This is a case about the inheritance of several properties covered by a Last Will and Testament. Under the Civil Code (Article 840 and 842), a person who has no compulsory heir may dispose of by Will, all his estate or any part thereof in favor of any person having the capacity to succeed. What is the meaning of capacity to succeed? Is it necessary that the person designated to inherit the property is related to the Testator, like a son or daughter? These are the issues resolved in this case.

This is the case of Maria, a young lass residing in an island province who had a love affair with Jaime, a priest in their town, whose parents owned three big parcels of land in the province. Because of Maria’s love affair with Jaime, she got pregnant. When she was almost four months pregnant and in order to conceal her disgrace from the public, she decided to marry her town mate Manny who was also courting her. Fr. Jaime even solemnized their marriage but they never lived together as husband and wife. One hundred ninety two days after their marriage, Maria gave birth to Isabel. As shown in Isabel’s birth certificate, her registered parents are Maria and Manny.

Meanwhile, Fr. Jaime’s parents died. So Fr. Jaime and his brother Carding inherited the properties left by their parents consisting of the three big parcels of land. Then Carding and Fr. Jaime likewise died. But before he died, Fr, Jaime executed a Last Will and Testament wherein he acknowledged Isabel as his daughter and instituted her as the sole and universal heir of all his property rights and interests. Said Will was duly probated by the courts two years after his death.

Soon after reaching the age of majority Isabel filed an action in Court against Peter the person holding possession of the properties she inherited from Fr. Jaime. Peter however claimed that some of the parcels of land were sold to him by the parents of Fr. Jaime before they died. Besides, Peter pointed out that Isabel is the legitimate child of the spouses Maria and Manny as she was born 192 days after the marriage of said spouses pursuant to Article 255 of the Civil Code which provides that “children born 180 days after the celebration of the marriage and before 300 days following its dissolution or the separation of the spouses, except when there is physical impossibility for the husband to have access to his wife within the first 100 days of the 300 days which preceded the birth of the child.” Besides he contended that Isabel’s filiation is proven by his birth certificate showing that her parents are Maria and Manny, not Fr. Jaime.

The lower court and subsequently the Supreme Court however ruled that Isabel is entitled to inherit the properties left by Fr. Jaime. It is unnecessary to determine the paternity of Isabel in the case. In the Last Will and Testament of Fr. Jaime, he not only acknowledged Isabel as his natural daughter but designated her as his only heir. Said Will was duly probated by the Court. As Fr. Jaime died without any compulsory heir, Isabel is therefore his lawful heir as duly instituted in his Will. One who has no compulsory heirs may dispose of by Will, all his estate or any part thereof in favor of any person having capacity to succeed. So Isabel is entitled to the possession of two portions of the first parcel of land and the entire third parcel of land while Peter is entitled to the second parcel and one portion of the first parcel which were sold to him by the parents of Fr. Jaime (Aparicio etc vs. Paraguya, G. R. L-29771, May 29, 1987).

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