I just learned that my brother sold his share in the estate left by our parents without my knowledge and despite the fact that we are yet to divide the property. I confronted him about this but he insisted he has the right to sell his share. May I know if my brother is right?
According to Article 777 of the Civil Code, “(t)he rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent.” This means that the right of the heirs to the inheritance accrues immediately upon the death of a person, which, under Article 776 of the same code, “includes all the property, rights and obligations of a person which are not extinguished by his death.” As such, an heir is considered to be an owner of the estate upon the death of the person he is succeeding.
If there is more than one heir, then the said heirs become co-owners of the properties forming the estate. As declared by the Supreme Court in the case of Butte vs. Uy, as a consequence of this fundamental rule of succession, the heirs acquire their undivided share in the estate from the moment of the decedent’s death, and from that instant, they become co-owners (G.R. No. L-15499, February 28, 1962; ponente: former Associate Justice Benedicto Luna Reyes).
As a co-owner, an heir is vested with rights. Article 493 of the Civil Code states that “each co-owner has full ownership of his part and of the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may therefore alienate, assign or mortgage it, and even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of the alienation or the mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership.” Note that the law does not require the consent of the other co-owners to exercise these rights.
The foregoing shows that an heir becomes a co-owner of the estate upon the death of the decedent. As a co-owner, he has the right to sell his share on the property forming part of the estate even without the consent of the other co-heirs. What he may only dispose of, however, is his successional right, which Art. 493 of the Civil Code states as “limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership.” This means that a co-heir can only dispose of his aliquot share, or his abstract quota or proportionate share in the entire thing owned in common by all the co-owners in the estate.
Hence, your brother is right in saying that he had the right to sell his share in the estate left by your parents even without your knowledge or consent. Yet, you need not worry because he only sold to the buyer what he would have received upon the distribution of the estate. Your share or part of the estate is not affected by the sale.
We hope we were able to sufficiently address your concerns. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if 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.