My parents-in-law left a house and a parcel of land in Laguna. We used to live in that house, but we left there and got a house of our own after our twin daughters were born. They passed away in the late 1990s but their children did not divide the properties. Sometime last year, my sister-in-law informed me that they are planning to sell those properties because my brother-in-law needs the money for his medication. All I want to know is whether I have the right to represent my wife in claiming her share in those properties. My wife passed away three years ago and I intend to use her share for the schooling of our daughters. I hope you can enlighten me. Thank you and best regards.
Your wife and her siblings are, by law, considered the compulsory heirs of your parents-in-law (Article 887, New Civil Code). Thus, the rights, properties and obligations left by their parents are transferred to them from the moment of their demise. This is in consonance with Article 774 of the said law which provides:
“Succession is a mode of acquisition by virtue of which the property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance, of a person are transmitted through his death to another or others either by his will or by operation of law.”
It bears stressing that the heirs may not be compelled to divide and distribute the properties immediately after the death of the decedent if they all choose to maintain the said properties under the regime of co-ownership. But, if any of the heirs desires to divide the properties left by the decedent, the heirs may either come into an agreement as to the division and distribution and proceed with the extrajudicial settlement of the estate of the decedent, if the latter left no will and no debts, or ensue for the judicial partition of the said estate.
We want to emphasize, though, that you have no right to represent your deceased wife relative to her successional rights. While our laws recognize the right of representation, that is, the representative is raised to the place and the degree of the person represented, and acquires the rights which the latter would have if he were living or if he could have inherited, such right is not granted to a spouse. Pursuant to Article 972 of the New Civil Code, “The right of representation takes place in the direct descending line, but never in the ascending. x x x In the collateral line, it takes place only in favor of the children of brothers or sisters, whether they be of the full or half blood.”
You may nevertheless assist or be the guardian of your daughters in asserting their rights over the share of their mother in the properties left by their grandparents if they are not yet of legal age. Being the children of the heir of the decedent, your daughters have the right to represent their mother and claim her share from the estate of their grandparents.
At this point, it will be best for you and you siblings-in-law to discuss the possible settlement of the estate of your deceased parents-in-law. It is more advisable for the heirs to proceed with the extrajudicial settlement of estate as it will dispense with a formal court proceeding for the partition of the estate.
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