Dealing with assets left by missing dad

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
For two years now, we tried our best to find my father, but we still don’t know where he is or what happened to him. Now, another problem cropped up. I received a notice from the local government that they are going to auction off my father’s land because of failure to pay the real property tax for several years. I personally don’t have the money to pay the taxes due but my father has other pieces of property that could satisfy the tax due. Unfortunately, I could not sell any property without my father. What can I do? Please help me.
Nato

Dear Nato,
It is indeed necessary to secure the consent of the owner of the property in order to sell or convey the same to other persons. Nevertheless, the Civil Code provides remedies in case the owner of the property is missing.

Under the law, when a person is missing, which means he “disappeared from his domicile, his whereabouts being unknown,” and he or she leaves a property behind, an interested party, a relative or a friend, goes to the court and ask for the appointment of a person to represent the absentee in all matters that may be necessary (Art. 381, Civil Code of the Philippines [CCP]). If the absentee left a representative prior to his or her disappearance, however, such as when there is an attorney-in-fact empowered to administer the missing person’s property, the remedy is not available until the authority given to the representative expires. In the appointment of a representative, the spouse present shall be preferred when there is no legal separation. Otherwise, any competent person may be appointed by the court (Art. 383, CCP).

In case the disappearance lasts two (2) years without any news about the absentee or since the receipt of the last news, or five (5) years in case the absentee has left a person in charge of the administration of his property, his or her absence may be declared (Art. 384, CCP). The petition for declaration of absence may be filed by the spouse present, the heirs or a person who may have some right over the property of the absentee subordinated to the condition of the latter’s death (Art. 385, CCP).


If the court grants the petition and appoints a representative, the judge shall take the necessary measures to safeguard the rights and interests of the absentee and shall specify the powers, obligations and remuneration of the representative. The judge shall also regulate the representative according to the circumstances and by the rules concerning guardians (Art. 382, CCP). In general, the representative to be appointed by the court will have the power to administer the pieces of property of the absentee but may not dispose or encumber property on his or her own. If it be necessary to preserve the rights and interests of the absentee, however, the representative may file a petition in court to be allowed to sell or encumber property.

Applied to your case, as it appears that your father did not appoint or authorize any person to administer his pieces of property prior to his disappearance and as he has been missing for two (2) years, you may file a petition in court to declare his absence and ask the court to appoint a representative who may administer the pieces of property he left. The representative may then ask the court for authority to sell or encumber some of your father’s pieces of property to settle the unpaid real property tax in order to preserve his rights and interests on the subject land. Following Rule 107 of the Rules of Court, the petition may be filed with the Regional Trial Court of the place where your father resided before his disappearance.

We hope the foregoing discussion has shed light on your query. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based solely on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should actual facts and circumstances change.

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

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