Right to representation in succession

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My mother died before my grandmother passed away and is survived by me and two uncles, who are her brothers. Before her death, she told me that since I am her only child, she will give me everything she will inherit from her mother, or my grandmother. I just want to know, since my mother died first, do I have the right to inherit directly from my grandmother instead?
Sincerely yours,
AC

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Dear AC,
Since your mother predeceased your grandmother, the only way you can inherit from the latter is by representing your mother in the succession of your grandmother’s estate. This is called the right of representation.

According to Articles 970 and 971 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:

“Art. 970. Representation is a right created by fiction of law, by virtue of which 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.

“Art. 971. The representative is called to the succession by the law and not by the person represented. The representative does not succeed the person represented but the one whom the person represented would have succeeded.”

In connection with these provisions, it means that you, as a grandchild, by right of representation, can still inherit from your grandmother by representing your mother in the succession. It is still your mother who will directly inherit from your grandmother.

This situation has been explained in the ruling of the Supreme Court through the former Associate Justice Isagani Cruz, in the case of Isabel dela Puerta v. The Honorable Court of Appeals and Carmelita de la Puerta (G.R. No. 77867, February 6, 1990), thus:

“In testamentary succession, the right of representation can take place only in the following cases: first, when the person represented dies before the testator; second, when the person represented is incapable of succeeding the testator; and third, when the person represented is disinherited by the testator. In all of these cases, since there is a vacancy in the inheritance, the law calls the children or descendants of the person represented to succeed by right of representation.

xxx xxx xxx

“The law is clear that there is representation only when relatives of a deceased person try to succeed him in his rights which he would have had if still living.” (Emphasis supplied)

Therefore, you cannot inherit directly from your grandmother although you can still inherit from her by right of representation. This is so because your mother, the person represented in the succession, died before your grandmother, who is the testator therein. Since your situation created a vacancy in the inheritance, you, as a descendant, can represent your mother to succeed by representing her.

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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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