My parents passed away while I was working abroad. It took me two more years to return to the Philippines and, to my dismay, I found out that the title to the parcel of land left by my parents was transferred under the names of my two brothers who executed a deed of extrajudicial settlement to claim the property as theirs and they proceeded to register it under their name. What should I do to recover my rightful share of our inheritance?
Please be informed that the execution of an affidavit of self-adjudication to settle the estate of a deceased person is only permitted in case the deceased died intestate and left only one heir. Section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court states in part:
“Section 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. — 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, the parties may without securing letters of administration, divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by means of a public instrument filed in the office of the register of deeds, and should they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary action of partition. If there is only one heir, he may adjudicate to himself the entire estate by means of an affidavit filed in the office of the register of deeds.” (Emphasis supplied)
In your situation, it is clear that your brothers have no right to claim the entire parcel of land left by your parents and therefore, the deed of extrajudicial settlement that they executed without your agreement may be considered fraudulent. Corollary, a Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) issued based on a fraudulent document may be annuled.
In order to recover your share of the subject parcel of land, you have to file before a court a petition for the annulment of the deed of extrajudicial settlement and to cancel the TCT issued to your brothers. In Gerona, et al. v. de Guzman, et al. (G.R. No. L-19060, May 20, 1964), penned by former Associate Justice Roberto Concepcion, the Supreme Court explained:
“When respondents executed the aforementioned deed of extra- judicial settlement stating therein that they are the sole heirs of the late Marcelo de Guzman, and secured new transfer certificates of title in their own name, they thereby excluded the petitioners from the estate of the deceased, and, consequently, set up a title adverse to them. And this is why petitioners have brought this action for the annulment of said deed upon the ground that the same is tainted with fraud.”
Please be informed, however, that you have to file the petition within four (4) years from the time of the subject deed of extr-judicial settlement was registered with the Register of Deeds, otherwise, your case would be barred by prescription. In the aforementioned case of Gerona, et al. v. De Guzman, et al., the Supreme Court also held:
“Inasmuch as petitioners seek to annul the aforementioned deed of “extrajudicial settlement” upon the ground of fraud in the execution thereof, the action therefor may be filed within four (4) years from the discovery of the fraud (Mauricio v. Villanueva, L-11072, September 24, 1959). Such discovery is deemed to have taken place, in the case at bar, on June 25, 1948, when said instrument was filed with the Register of Deeds and new certificates of title were issued in the name of respondents exclusively, for the registration of the deed of extrajudicial settlement constitutes constructive notice to the whole world.” (Emphasis supplied)
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 email@example.com.