My wife is an illegitimate child. She grew up with her father’s family but he failed to sign her birth certificate. Her father got married to another woman with whom he had children. Now that her father is dead, is my wife entitled to a share in the inheritance even if her birth certificate was not signed? If so, how can she claim it if the legal family had already made an extrajudicial partition of the properties?
Dear Mr. B,
The rights which an illegitimate child may enforce against his father shall accrue only if he was duly recognized by his father as the latter’s own illegitimate child. Once recognized, an illegitimate child shall have the right to support, right to use the surname of his father and the right to inherit through succession. While the act of signing or affixing the father’s signature at the child’s birth certificate is considered to be the most conclusive act of recognizing an illegitimate child, such is not the only means of proving illegitimate filiation. Article 175 of the Family Code of the Philippines provides that an illegitimate child may prove his illegitimate parentage in the same way as a legitimate child.
Recognition of an illegitimate child, may be done in any of the following ways: 1) record of birth appearing in the civil register or a final judgment; 2) an admission of filiation in a public document or a private handwritten instrument and signed by the parent concerned; 3) open and continuous possession of the status of a legitimate child; or 4) any other means allowed by the Rules of Court and special laws (Article 172, Family Code of the Philippines). Hence, even if your wife’s birth certificate was not signed by her father, she may still be considered a compulsory heir of his father if she was recognized in any of the aforementioned means.
The share of a recognized illegitimate child in the estate of his deceased father shall be one half of the shares of a legitimate child. The heirs may extra-judicially partition the estate of the deceased among themselves as they see fit by means of a public instrument if the decedent left no will and no debts and the heirs are all of age, or the minors are represented by their judicial or legal representatives duly authorized for the purpose.
However, an extrajudicial settlement shall not be binding upon any person who has not participated therein or had no notice thereof (Section 1, Rule 74, Rules of Court). Hence, if your wife was excluded by the legitimate family of her father in the partition of her father’s estate, she may go to the court and file an action for the nullification of their extrajudicial settlement and claim her share in the inheritance.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that 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