Legal or intestate succession

1. Concepts

“Legal succession” or “intestate succession” takes place:

1) If a person dies without a will, or with a void will, or one which has subsequently lost its validity;

2) When the will does not institute an heir to, or dispose of all the property belonging to the testator. In such case, legal succession shall take place only with respect to the property of which the testator has not disposed;

3) If the suspensive condition attached to the institution of heir does not happen or is not fulfilled, or if the heir dies before the testator, or repudiates the inheritance, there being no substitution, and no right of accretion takes place;

4) When the heir instituted is incapable of succeeding, except in cases provided in this Code. (Article 960, R.A. 386, Civil Code)

a. Hierarchy of intestate heirs

In default of testamentary heirs, the law vests the inheritance, in accordance with the rules hereinafter set forth, in the legitimate and illegitimate relatives of the deceased, in the surviving spouse, and in the State. (Article 961, Ibid.)

b. Relationship

1) Rule on proximity

Article 962. In every inheritance, the relative nearest in degree excludes the more distant ones, saving the right of representation when it properly takes place. (R.A. 386, Civil Code)

The above-cited provision of law is also known as the rule on proximity.

The rule on proximity is a concept that favors the relatives nearest in degree to the decedent and excludes the more distant ones except when and to the extent that the right of representation can apply. (Bagunu v. Piedad, G.R. No. 140975, 08 December 2000)

2) Generation v. Degree

Proximity of relationship is determined by the number of generations. Each generation forms a “degree”. (Article 963, Ibid.)

Degrees may be either direct or collateral. (Article 964, Ibid.)

3) Line

A “line” – refers to a series of degrees. (Article 964, Ibid.)

In the line, as many degrees are counted as there are generations or persons, excluding the progenitor. (Article 966, Ibid.)

a) Direct line

A “direct line” – is that constituted by the series of degrees among ascendants and descendants. (Paragraph 2, Article 964, Ibid.)

In the direct line, ascent is made to the common ancestor. Thus, the child is one degree removed from the parent, two from the grandfather, and three from the great-grandparent. (Paragraph 2, Article 966, Ibid.)

The direct line is either descending or ascending. (Article 965, Ibid.)

i) Ascending

The “descending line” – unites the head of the family with those who descend from him. (Paragraph 2, Article 965, Ibid.)

ii) Descending

The “ascending line” – binds a person with those from whom he descends. (Ibid.)

b) Collateral line

A “collateral line” – is that constituted by the series of degrees among persons who are not ascendants and descendants, but who come from a common ancestor. (Paragraph 3, Article 964, Ibid.)

In the collateral line, ascent is made to the common ancestor and then descent is made to the person with whom the computation is to be made. Thus, a person is two degrees removed from his brother, three from his uncle, who is the brother of his father, four from his first cousin, and so forth. (Paragraph 3, Article 966, Ibid.)

4) Full-blood v. Half-blood

“Full blood relationship” – is that existing between persons who have the same father and the same mother. (Article 967, Ibid.)

“Half blood relationship” – is that existing between persons who have the same father, but not the same mother, or the same mother, but not the same father. (Paragraph 2, Article 967, Ibid.)

c. Relatives of the same degree

Relatives in the same degree shall inherit in equal shares, subject to the provisions of article 1006 with respect to relatives of the full and half blood, and of article 987, paragraph 2, concerning division between the paternal and maternal lines. (Paragraph 2, Article 962, Ibid.)

1) Accrual of shares

If there are several relatives of the same degree, and one or some of them are unwilling or incapacitated to succeed, his portion shall accrue to the others of the same degree, save the right of representation when it should take place. (Paragraph 3, Article 968, Ibid.)

2) Repudiation

If the inheritance should be repudiated by the nearest relative, should there be one only, or by all the nearest relatives called by law to succeed, should there be several, those of the following degree shall inherit in their own right and cannot represent the person or persons repudiating the inheritance. (Article 969, Ibid.)

2. Right of Representation

“Representation” – is a right created by fiction of law, by virtue of which the representative is raised to the place and the degree of the person represented, and acquires the rights which the latter would have if he were living or if he could have inherited. (Article 970, Ibid.)

a. Called by law

The representative is called to the succession by the law and not by the person represented. The representative does not succeed the person represented but the one whom the person represented would have succeeded. (Article 971, Ibid.)

b. Direct descending line

The right of representation takes place in the direct descending line, but never in the ascending. (Article 972, Ibid.)

c. Collateral line

In the collateral line, it takes place only in favor of the children of brothers or sisters, whether they be of the full or half blood. (Paragraph 2, Article 972, Ibid.)

d. Representative’s capacity

In order that representation may take place, it is necessary that the representative himself be capable of succeeding the decedent. (Article 973, Ibid.)

e. Division per stirpes

Whenever there is succession by representation, the division of the estate shall be made per stirpes, in such manner that the representative or representatives shall not inherit more than what the person they represent would inherit, if he were living or could inherit. (Article 974, Ibid.)

f. Children of siblings

When children of one or more brothers or sisters of the deceased survive, they shall inherit from the latter by representation, if they survive with their uncles or aunts. But if they alone survive, they shall inherit in equal portions. (Article 975, Ibid.)

g. Persons who renounced

A person may represent him whose inheritance he has renounced. (Article 976, Ibid.)

h. Persons who repudiated

Heirs who repudiate their share may not be represented. (Article 977, Ibid.)

3. Order of Intestate Succession

a. Descending Direct Line

Succession pertains, in the first place, to the descending direct line. (Article 978, Ibid.)

1) Legitimate and adopted children

Legitimate children and their descendants succeed the parents and other ascendants, without distinction as to sex or age, and even if they should come from different marriages. (Article 979, Ibid.)

The children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares. (Article 980, Ibid.)

An adopted child succeeds to the property of the adopting parents in the same manner as a legitimate child. (Paragraph 2, Article 979, Ibid.)

In case of the death of an adopted child, leaving no children or descendants, his parents and relatives by consanguinity and not by adoption, shall be his legal heirs. (Article 984, Ibid.)

2) Grandchild and other descendants

Should children of the deceased and descendants of other children who are dead, survive, the former shall inherit in their own right, and the latter by right of representation. (Article 981, Ibid.)

The grandchildren and other descendants shall inherit by right of representation, and if any one of them should have died, leaving several heirs, the portion pertaining to him shall be divided among the latter in equal portions. (Article 982, Ibid.)

3) Illegitimate children

If illegitimate children survive with legitimate children, the shares of the former shall be in the proportions prescribed by article 895. (Article 983, Ibid.)

b. Ascending Direct Line

1) Parents

In default of legitimate children and descendants of the deceased, his parents and ascendants shall inherit from him, to the exclusion of collateral relatives. (Article 985, Ibid.)

The father and mother, if living, shall inherit in equal shares. (Article 986, Ibid.)

Should one only of them survive, he or she shall succeed to the entire estate of the child. (Paragraph 2, Article 986, Ibid.)

2) Nearest in degree

In default of the father and mother, the ascendants nearest in degree shall inherit. (Article 987, Ibid.)

Should there be more than one of equal degree belonging to the same line they shall divide the inheritance per capita; should they be of different lines but of equal degree, one-half shall go to the paternal and the other half to the maternal ascendants. In each line the division shall be made per capita. (Paragraph 2, Article 987, Ibid.)

c. Illegitimate Children

In the absence of legitimate descendants or ascendants, the illegitimate children shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased. (Article 988, Ibid.)

1) Succession

a) With descendants of other illegitimate children

If, together with illegitimate children, there should survive descendants of another illegitimate child who is dead, the former shall succeed in their own right and the latter by right of representation. (Article 989, Ibid.)

The hereditary rights granted by the two preceding articles to illegitimate children shall be transmitted upon their death to their descendants, who shall inherit by right of representation from their deceased grandparent. (Article 990, Ibid.)

b) With legitimate ascendants

If legitimate ascendants are left, the illegitimate children shall divide the inheritance with them, taking one-half of the estate, whatever be the number of the ascendants or of the illegitimate children. (Article 991, Ibid.)

The “iron curtain” clause

Article 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child. (Article 992, Ibid.)

“Article 992 of the New Civil Code provides a barrier or iron curtain in that it prohibits absolutely a succession ab intestato between the illegitimate child and the legitimate children and relatives of the father or mother of said illegitimate child. They may have a natural tie of blood, but this is not recognized by law for the purpose of Article 992. Between the legitimate family and the illegitimate family there is presumed to be an intervening antagonism and incompatibility. The illegitimate child is disgracefully looked down upon by the legitimate family; and the family is in turn, hated by the illegitimate child; the latter considers the privileged condition of the former, and the resources of which it is thereby deprived; the former, in turn, sees in the illegitimate child nothing but the product of sin, palpable evidence of a blemish broken in life; the law does no more than recognize this truth, by avoiding further ground of resentment.” (Manresa 110 cited in Grey v. Fable 40 OG (First S) No. 3, p. 196, subsequently cited Diaz v. IAC, En Banc, G.R. No. L-66574, 21 February 1990).

Aquino v. Aquino, En Banc, G.R. Nos. 208912 and 209018, 07 December 2021

⦁ [ A non-marital child – a.k.a. illegitimate child – sought to inherit from his grandfather’s estate. The lower courts prohibited it citing Article 992 of the Civil Code. On appeal, the Supreme Court cited Article 982 of the Civil Code as the more appropriate provision in consonance with the 1987 Constitution, prevailing laws, and commitment to international law.]

Accordingly, when a nonmarital child seeks to represent their deceased f parent to succeed in their grandparent’s estate, Article 982 of the Civil Code shall apply. Article 982 provides:

ART. 982. The grandchildren and other descendants shall inherit by right of representation, and if any one of them should have died, leaving several heirs, the portion pertaining to him shall be divided among the latter in equal portions. (Emphasis supplied)

⦁ The language of Article 982 does not make any distinctions or qualifications as to the birth status of the “grandchildren and other descendants” granted the right of representation. Moreover, … to allow grandchildren and other descendants, regardless of their birth status, to inherit by right of representation will protect the legitime of the compulsory heir they represent; otherwise, the legitime will be impaired, contrary to protections granted to this legitime in other areas of our law on succession.

⦁ Applying Article 982 in situations where the grandchild’s right to inherit from their grandparent is in issue is more in accord with our State policy of protecting children’s best interests and our responsibility of complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To emphasize, this ruling will only apply when the nonmarital child has a right of representation to their parent’s share in her grandparent’s legitime. It is silent on collateral relatives where the nonmarital child may inherit by themself. We are not now ruling on the extent of the right of a  nonmarital child to inherit in their own right. Those will be the subject of a proper case and, if so minded, may also be the subject of more enlightened and informed future legislation.

3) Death of illegitimate children

a) Parents succeed

If an illegitimate child should die without issue, either legitimate or illegitimate, his father or mother shall succeed to his entire estate; and if the child’s filiation is duly proved as to both parents, who are both living, they shall inherit from him share and share alike. (Article 993, Ibid.)

b) Surviving spouse

In default of the father or mother, an illegitimate child shall be succeeded by his or her surviving spouse who shall be entitled to the entire estate. (Article 994, Ibid.)

If the widow or widower should survive with brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, she or he shall inherit one-half of the estate, and the latter the other half. (Paragraph 2, Article 994, Ibid.)

d. Surviving Spouse

In the absence of legitimate descendants and ascendants, and illegitimate children and their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, the surviving spouse shall inherit the entire estate, without prejudice to the rights of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, should there be any, under article 1001. (Article 995, Ibid.)

1) Widow and legitimate children/descendants

If a widow or widower and legitimate children or descendants are left, the surviving spouse has in the succession the same share as that of each of the children. (Article 996, Ibid.)

2) Widow and legitimate parents/descendants

When the widow or widower survives with legitimate parents or ascendants, the surviving spouse shall be entitled to one-half of the estate, and the legitimate parents or ascendants to the other half. (Article 997, Ibid.)

3) Widow and illegitimate children/descendants

If a widow or widower survives with illegitimate children, such widow or widower shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance, and the illegitimate children or their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, to the other half. (Article 998, Ibid.)

4) Widow, legitimate children/descendants, and illegitimate children/descendants

When the widow or widower survives with legitimate children or their descendants and illegitimate children or their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, such widow or widower shall be entitled to the same share as that of a legitimate child. (Article 999, Ibid.)

5) Widow, legitimate ascendants, and illegitimate children/descendants

If legitimate ascendants, the surviving spouse, and illegitimate children are left, the ascendants shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance, and the other half shall be divided between the surviving spouse and the illegitimate children so that such widow or widower shall have one-fourth of the estate, and the illegitimate children the other fourth. (Article 1000, Ibid.)

6) Widow and siblings/their children

Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other half. (Article 1001, Ibid.)

7) Guilty spouse in legal separation

In case of a legal separation, if the surviving spouse gave cause for the separation, he or she shall not have any of the rights granted in the preceding articles. (Article 1002, Ibid.)

e. Collateral Relatives

If there are no descendants, ascendants, illegitimate children, or a surviving spouse, the collateral relatives shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased in accordance with the following articles. (Article 1003, Ibid.)

1) Full blood siblings

Should the only survivors be brothers and sisters of the full blood, they shall inherit in equal shares. (Article 1004, Ibid.)

2) Full blood siblings and nephews/nieces

Should brothers and sisters survive together with nephews and nieces, who are the children of the descendant’s brothers and sisters of the full blood, the former shall inherit per capita, and the latter per stirpes. (Article 1005, Ibid.)

3) Full blood siblings and half-blood siblings

Should brother and sisters of the full blood survive together with brothers and sisters of the half blood, the former shall be entitled to a share double that of the latter. (Article 1006, Ibid.)

4) Half-blood siblings

In case brothers and sisters of the half blood, some on the father’s and some on the mother’s side, are the only survivors, all shall inherit in equal shares without distinction as to the origin of the property. (Article 1007, Ibid.)

5) Children of half-blood siblings

Article 1008. Children of brothers and sisters of the half blood shall succeed per capita or per stirpes, in accordance with the rules laid down for brothers and sisters of the full blood. (Article 1008, Ibid.)

6) Other collateral relatives

Should there be neither brothers nor sisters nor children of brothers or sisters, the other collateral relatives shall succeed to the estate.

The latter shall succeed without distinction of lines or preference among them by reason of relationship by the whole blood. (954a)

The right to inherit ab intestato shall not extend beyond the fifth degree of relationship in the collateral line. (Article 1009, Ibid.)

f. The State

In default of persons entitled to succeed in accordance with the provisions of the preceding Sections, the State shall inherit the whole estate. (Article 1011, Ibid.)

1) Municipality of City

After the payment of debts and charges, the personal property shall be assigned to the municipality or city where the deceased last resided in the Philippines, and the real estate to the municipalities or cities, respectively, in which the same is situated. (Article 1013, Ibid.)

If the deceased never resided in the Philippines, the whole estate shall be assigned to the respective municipalities or cities where the same is located. (Paragraph 2, Article 1013, Ibid.)

Such estate shall be for the benefit of public schools, and public charitable institutions and centers, in such municipalities or cities. The court shall distribute the estate as the respective needs of each beneficiary may warrant. (Paragraph 3, Article 1013, Ibid.)

The court, at the instance of an interested party, or on its own motion, may order the establishment of a permanent trust, so that only the income from the property shall be used. (Paragraph 4, Article 1013, Ibid.)

2) Claims, within 5 years

If a person legally entitled to the estate of the deceased appears and files a claim thereto with the court within five years from the date the property was delivered to the State, such person shall be entitled to the possession of the same, or if sold, the municipality or city shall be accountable to him for such part of the proceeds as may not have been lawfully spent. (Article 1014, Ibid.)

Disclaimer: All information is for educational and general information only. These should not be taken as professional legal advice or opinion. Please consult a competent lawyer to address your specific concerns. Any statements or opinions of the author are solely his own and do not reflect that of any organization he may be connected.

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