Land title does not transfer ownership of an inherited piece of land

Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I have been in possession of a portion of a piece of land that I inherited from our parents. This is the share I got when my brother and I partitioned the land. To my surprise, I just found out recently that the title of the whole lot was in the name of my brother when I was processing documents needed to mortgage what I had inherited. Does this mean that my brother now owns the property?

Dear Kimberly,
The provision of the New Civil Code of the Philippines applies to your situation, particularly Article1456, which provides:

“Art. 1456. If property is acquired through mistake or fraud, the person obtaining it is, by force of law, considered a trustee of an implied trust for the benefit of the person from whom the property comes.”

Thus, even if the title of the land is in the name of your brother, it does not follow that he owns the whole lot. As stated in the aforesaid law, he is considered a trustee of the land therefore ownership thereof was not transferred to him. You may ask him to transfer half of the property in your name. Should he fail to do so, you may file a petition in court for reconveyance or cancelation of title.

In addition to this, to protect your rights over the property, you may execute an Affidavit of Adverse Claim, stating among others that you own half of the land and have the same annotated with the Register of Deeds where the land is located, so that others may be informed about this.

It is worthy to mention that issuance of title does not vest ownership of a parcel of land but only shows or evidences who the owner/s of the land is/are. In the case of Heirs of Clemente Ermac vs. Heirs of Vicente Ermac (G.R. No. 149679, May 30, 2003), the Supreme Court pronounced the following:

“Furthermore, ownership is not the same as a certificate of title. Registering a piece of land under the Torrens System does not create or vest title, because registration is not a mode of acquiring ownership. A certificate of title is merely an evidence of ownership or title over the particular property described therein. Its issuance in favor of a particular person does not foreclose the possibility that the real property may be co-owned with persons not named in the certificate, or that it may be held in trust for another person by the registered owner.”

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


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  1. Dear PAO

    Ano po ba ang dapat gagawin? Ito po ang problima ng pamilya namin? My lupa kami na naiwan ng umaung lolo ko! Komplito naman po magluwas sa isang bagay ung titulo po na nasa amin wala pong lot number!! Sana mabasa nyo po at mabigyan ng pansin po ang problima namin salamat po….

  2. Joy Capangpangan-Cabanig on

    I am a fan of your column and I used to watch your legal program in TV too coz it is meaty and relevant to real-life situation. I would like to ask your legal opinion about a case of a relative who is allegedly married to a man he cohabited before and of whom she has 3 sons, of legal ages now. She uses her alleged husband’s surname in her Tax Dec but in a descriptive way.. ” married to (alleged husband)”. But no NSO of their marriage. At present, her allege husband and 3 sons connived and entered a D/Sale, the latter as the vendees. The 3 sons were adopted by her relative. Now, she and her alleged husband and 3 sons are not in good terms when they executed the deed. It was solely her exclusive funds when the property was acquired. In fact, she spent for the education of her alleged husband, who is married to 2 women on the dates after they parted in 1993, per CENOMAR.of said person. Both of them are living separate lives without legal process. She learned in 2013 that 50% of the said land or about 3,000 +sqm. a tombok lot and strategically located, were disposed in favor of their sons, without her knowledge and consent and the same is against her will. Her signature is not even in the Deed when she was the principal declared owner and the alleged husband was declared in a descriptive manner as such.. married to …” Worst, the vendees lease the property and on-going bldg construction claiming land & bldg as theirs. In the deed, the portion sold was not even specific as to its boundaries. Is there a big chance that she can claim back the 50%? The tax dec was not yet transferred in the names of the sons. She would have given her sons a part of it, but with their disrespectful acts and slanderous assertions (claiming that they are her sons and they ought to have shares in it), she decides to not give them.

    She is very disturbed. She is in her late 50’s and wants to enjoy her property. Pls advise. Thank you. More Power and…