Death of principal extinguishes authority of agent

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
When our mother was still alive, she made a special power of attorney to authorize her “kumare” to collect the monthly rental payments of the apartments that she was leasing to her tenants. Our mother’s “kumare” was tasked to give to my mother her collections every end of the year. When my mother passed away, we found out that her “kumare” still collects monthly rentals of our mother’s apartments despite her knowledge of our mother’s death. When we talked to her to inform her that we will now do the collection of rents for our mother’s properties, she refused and insisted that she is the only one authorized by our mother in the special power of attorney to do the collections for her. We now want to know if our mother’s “kumare” can still act on her behalf and collect the rents of her properties despite her death? Please advise us.
Juliana

Dear Juliana,
It appears that the kumare of your mother anchors her right to collect the aforementioned rents on the special power of attorney executed by your mother when she was still alive. Considering the existence of a special power of attorney, it appears that there is a principal-agent relationship between your mother and her kumare wherein your mother, as the principal, appoints her kumare as her agent to collect rents for her. This kind of relationship is under a contract of agency covered by the Civil Code of the Philippines.

Under Article 1868 of the said law, a principal authorizes another person, called the agent, to act for and in his/her behalf in transactions with a third party. A special power of attorney is executed to legally manifest this principal-agent relationship. The scope of the authority given to an agent is limited to those provided and enumerated in the special power of attorney. Among the limitations that can be stated in a special power of attorney is the period of effectivity of the authority given to an agent. In case a special power of attorney fails to indicate a period of its effectivity, the agency can still be extinguished in different ways.

According to Article 1919 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, one of the ways by which a principal-agent relationship is extinguished is with the death of the principal. According to jurisprudence, any act of an agent after the death of his principal is void ab initio unless the agency was instituted for the common interest of the principal and the agent; and if the death of the principal was unknown to the agent (Ramon Rallos vs CA, GR No. L-24332 January 31, 1978, Ponente: former Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma).


In other words, the general rule is that the death of the principal extinguishes the authority given the agent. Applying this legal principle to your mother’s situation, the authority given by your mother to her kumare seizes to be effective immediately upon your mother’s death, especially considering that she is aware of her death.

Thus, your mother’s kumare has no legal rights anymore to act on your mother’s behalf and collect her properties’ rents for her. Should she insist to act on your mother’s behalf on the basis of the aforementioned special power of attorney, such action can be legally questioned as her authority is already considered null and void after the death of her principal.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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