Childless woman’s siblings entitled only to half of her estate

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I need your advice concerning the property inherited by my late wife from her parents. After my wife died, her siblings started claiming a portion of the property. My officemate told me that they can claim because my wife and I do not have any child. Could you please enlighten me on this matter? Thank you.

Dear Adolfo,
It is true that the siblings of your deceased wife may have a claim on the property she left. They are not entitled to an inheritance in all instances, however. It must be emphasized that brothers and sisters are not considered compulsory heirs. As such, they are not entitled to receive legitime, which is that part of a person’s property that is automatically reserved by law to compulsory heirs (Articles 886 & 887, Civil Code). Their right to inherit only accrue if they are instituted as heirs in a last will and testament, or in case of legal or intestate succession.

The first instance refers to a situation when the decedent exercises his or her right to designate the persons who are to succeed him in his property, transmissible rights and obligations by executing a will. (Art. 840, Ibid.) In this case, a person becomes an heir entitled to receive a part of the estate out of the liberality of the testator who deemed it proper to leave something to such heir.

The second instance, which is legal or intestate succession, takes place when there is no valid will, or there is a valid will but it does not dispose of all the decedent’s properties. In the latter case, legal succession takes place only with respect to the property that the decedent did not dispose. It also occurs when the will cannot be given effect because the suspensive condition attached to the institution of an heir is not fulfilled, or the heir dies before the testator, repudiates the inheritance or is incapable of succeeding, save in certain exceptions. (Art. 960, Id.) In this case, the law itself designates the heirs who will partake in the estate that it deems as the presumed will of the decedent.

Now, the rules on legal succession clearly states that collateral relatives, such as brothers and sisters, only inherit in default of legitimate children and descendants, and parents and ascendants. (Art. 985, Id.) This means that the existence of any of the above-mentioned class of heirs excludes brothers and sisters from the estate, and defeats their right to receive a portion of the estate. They may, however, co-exist with the surviving spouse as heirs, in which case half of the estate is given to the surviving spouse and the remaining half to the siblings. (Art. 1001, Id.)

In your case, you did not mention that your wife left a last will, so we assume that there is none. If this will be the case, then the claim of your wife’s siblings to receive a portion of her estate will be based on the rules on intestacy. Following the above-mentioned rule, they are only entitled to receive half of your wife’s estate if there are no surviving children or other descendants, or parents or other ascendants.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to


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