I would like to know if an heir to a house and lot who is a non-Filipino citizen instituted in a last will and testament has more rights than the compulsory heirs who are Filipino citizens.
Before we can determine who has the better right between an instituted heir and a compulsory heir, we have to be abreast on the attendant facts and circumstances, which you failed to disclose in your query. Thus, to guide you, we will be citing provisions of the law that you may use to enlighten yourself in your present situation.
You did not mention in your query if the non-Filipino citizen heir instituted in the will is a former natural-born Filipino citizen and also a compulsory heir of the testator. These facts are important information that can help us render the appropriate legal opinion.
You may have in your mind the provisions of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits non-Filipino citizens from owning pieces of real property 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.”
If the non-Filipino mentioned has been instituted in a will as an heir to a piece of real property, he is capacitated to acquire the real property on the basis of the will. The provision of the Constitution is clear that even non-Filipino citizens can own pieces of real property in the Philippines by virtue of hereditary succession.
The next issue that is in point is whether such instituted heir is a compulsory heir of the testator as enumerated under Article 887 of the New Civil Code as follows, 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 heir mentioned is not one of those as herein enumerated, 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.).
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. 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.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org