Please help me with my legal problem. My late father used to own a property (land) in the province, which he sold to my cousin. I heard from my law student-friend that the children of a deceased person have “legitimes” and that these must be reserved and cannot be given away. Can I reclaim the property sold by my father to my cousin? This was the only property he had left if he did not sell it to my cousin. Thank you.
You did not mention in your letter whether your cousin fully paid the price for the property or it was partly donated to him.
Article 886 of the Civil Code defines a legitime as “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.” The legitime is basically inheritance which a compulsory heir receives. Article 887 enumerates as first type of compulsory heir, legitimate children and descendants of the deceased. It does not matter whether you are a legitimate or illegitimate child of the deceased. You are all compulsory heirs. However, an illegitimate child will only get half of what a legitimate child receives.
While a deceased can will his property to other people aside from his compulsory heirs, a part of his property must be reserved for his compulsory heirs. If their part of the inheritance is reduced due to the will of the deceased, the part willed to others may be reduced to meet the share of the compulsory heirs.
To determine the value of one’s legitime, “the value of the property left at the death of the testator shall be considered, deducting all debts and charges, which shall not include those imposed in the will. To the net value of the hereditary estate shall be added the value of all donations by the testator that are subject to collation at the time he made them” (Article 908, Civil Code).
Moreover, Article 1061 of the Civil Code speaks of collation wherein:
“Every compulsory heir, who succeeds with other compulsory heirs, must bring into the mass of the estate any property or right which he may have received from the decedent, during the lifetime of the latter, by way of donation, or any other gratuitous title, in order that it may be computed in the determination of the legitime of each heir, and in the account of the partition.”
It must be noted that what is computed at the time of death and what is collated at the time of death is the value of the property left by the deceased.
Assuming that your cousin fully paid the price for your father’s property, at the time of the sale, he still had the value of his property intact. It was only converted into cash, as he gained cash in return for the property. Therefore, while he lost real property, he had cash or personal property. If at the time of his death, he still had cash or at least a part of it, the cash will be your inheritance and not the real property.
However, if you have knowledge and evidence that part of the sale was actually a donation, meaning, your father sold the property for less than its actual value, it may be possible for that part of the value of the property to be returned and collated in accordance with Article 1061 of the Civil Code.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.