• Properties, rights, obligations of deceased parent co-owned by heirs

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    Dear PAO,
    My mother bought a vehicle when she was still alive. We, as her children, verbally agreed that the vehicle will be mine. Now, I am planning to sell the vehicle. Will I be able to sell the vehicle even if it is still named after our deceased mother? My other problem is that one of my sisters refuses to give me the registration papers.
    Eric

    Dear Eric,
    Unfortunately, you may not claim the whole vehicle as your own property and sell it without first settling the estate of your deceased mother. The moment your mother died, all her properties, rights and obligations which are not extinguished by death are transferred to her heirs (Articles 776 & 777, Civil Code of the Philippines). At that point, a co-ownership is formed among the heirs of your mother, with respect to the estate she left. The co-ownership will subsist until the estate of the decedent is settled.

    During the co-ownership, a co-owner has full ownership only with respect to his proportionate share in the whole property and he may sell or dispose of it without the consent of the other co-owners except when personal rights are involved (Article 493, Ibid.). Hence, your attempt to sell the whole property will not be possible as you are only allowed to dispose of your share. At best, your plan to sell the whole property will only be valid as to your proportionate share. The other co-owners or heirs who withheld their consent shall retain their claim over the property.

    As mentioned, to end the co-ownership among the heirs, the estate of the deceased person must first be settled. This may be made judicially or extra-judicially. Extrajudicial settlement of estate is only allowed in case the decedent left no will and no debt, and all the heirs, including minors who must be represented by their judicial or legal representatives, agree to divide the estate among themselves by means of a public instrument (Rule 74, Section 1, Rules of Court). In other cases, the estate must be settled with the intervention of the court. The public instrument containing the agreement of the heirs as to the division of the estate, or the order of the court with respect to partition and distribution of the estate, as the case may be, will serve as authority to transfer the title to other persons.

    The verbal agreement between you and your siblings that the vehicle will belong to you does not comply with prescribed procedure for settlement of estate mentioned above. Hence, you may not use it to support your claim that you alone own the vehicle and is entitled to sell it. Pending settlement of the estate of your mother, the vehicle and all other properties left by your mother shall be co-owned by her heirs. As it appears that your mother did not leave a last will and testament, it is safe to say that her heirs will be you, your siblings, and your father if he is alive.

    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.

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