Foreigners can own properties through hereditary succession

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Is a non-Filipino citizen, who is instituted in a last will and testament, entitled to better rights than the compulsory heirs who are Filipino citizens?

Dear Bryan,
Before we can determine who has the better right between an instituted heir and a compulsory heir, we have to be informed of the attendant facts and circumstances which you failed to disclose in your query.

You did not mention in your query if the non-Filipino citizen who was instituted as an heir in the will is a former natural-born Filipino citizen and likewise a compulsory heir of the testator. These facts are important to help us render the appropriate legal opinion. Thus, we will be citing the appropriate provisions of the law which may apply to your query.

You may have in your mind the provisions of the 1987 Constitution which prohibits non-Filipino citizens from owning real properties in the Philippines, thus, in point are Sections 7 and 8, Article XII of the Philippine Constitution, to wit:

“Sec.7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.

Sec.8. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 7 of this Article, a natural-born citizen of the Philippines who lost his Philippine citizenship may be a transferee of private lands, subject to limitations provided by law.”

Gleaning from the foregoing provisions, if the said non-Filipino has been instituted in a will as an heir to a real property; he is capacitated to acquire the said real property on the basis of the will. The provision of the Constitution is clear that even non-Filipino citizens can own real properties in the Philippines by virtue of hereditary succession.

The next issue that we have to address is whether or not such instituted heir is a compulsory heir of the testator as enumerated under Article 887 of the New Civil Code, to wit:

“Art. 887. The following are compulsory heirs:

(1) Legitimate children and descendants, with respect to their legitimate parents and ascendants;

(2) In default of the foregoing, legitimate parents and ascendants, with respect to their legitimate children and descendants;

(3) The widow or widower;

(4) Acknowledged natural children, and natural children by legal fiction;

(5) Other illegitimate children referred to in Article 287.”

If the said heir is not one of those who are enumerated in the cited provision, then his institution as an heir may be questioned or annulled if such institution will affect the legitime of the compulsory heirs. It is explicit in the Civil Code that one who has compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate provided that he does not contravene the provisions of the law relative to the legitime of such compulsory heirs (Article 842, New Civil Code). Legitime is that part of the testator’s property that he cannot dispose of because the law has reserved if for the compulsory heirs (Article 886, Ibid.).

Thus, the preterition or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of an heir (Article 854, Id.).

Therefore, if the instituted heir is not a compulsory heir as enumerated under the law, he has no better right than the compulsory heirs and his institution may be annulled if the rights of the compulsory heirs are prejudiced.

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


Please follow our commenting guidelines.


  1. goodnight po tatanong ko di po kung popwede namin mga silipin Passbook ng association sa banko dahil presidente mismo ang ayaw mag pasilip ng Passbok ang nilalaman ng aPassbook ayang equity ng mga Tao O member at kapag nagtatanong nagagalit ang mga new electeced officer salamat po

  2. Attorney tatanong ko lang po kung nasa batas po ba na pwedeng tumakbo ng pagka opisyales ang mga delinquent member ng Association tapos nang tumakbo sila ay ang kanilang account na hini pa na settle ay aarborin nalang ng Presidente ng aasociation ang kanilang delinquent in short hindi na sa kanila pababayara tama po ba yon?