• Separated widow’s claim to husband’s wealth valid unless she caused split

    Persida Acosta

    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My husband died leaving several pieces of property. I tried to claim my share from what he left but his half-siblings adamantly denied my claim. They said I do not have the right to inherit from my husband because my husband and I are legally separated, and we did noat have children. Is this true? Also, can you please enlighten me regarding the rights of my husband’s half-siblings on the assets he left?

    Dear Christy,
    Under the rules on succession, it is common knowledge that the surviving spouse is a legal heir of his or her deceased spouse. In fact, the widow or widower is considered a compulsory heir guaranteed by law to receive a portion of the estate of the deceased person called legitime (Articles 886 & 887, Civil Code of the Philippines [CCP]). The widow or widower referred to in the law is the legal spouse of the deceased person.

    By legal separation, the husband and wife are entitled to live separately from each other, but the marital tie between them remains because legal separation does not sever the marriage bonds between the spouses (Art. 63 (1), Family Code [FC]). The legally separated couple remains married in the eyes of the law. This being the case, the fact that the husband and wife are legally separated does not mean that the surviving spouse is automatically disqualified from inheriting from his or her deceased spouse.

    By provision of law, however, the offending spouse or the spouse who gave cause for the legal separation is expressly disqualified from inheriting from the innocent spouse by intestate succession. Moreover, the provisions in favor of the offending spouse made in the will of the innocent spouse are considered revoked by operation of law upon legal separation (Art. 63(4), FC). These are some of the effects of legal separation under the Family Code.

    From the foregoing, it is clear that your legal separation will not disqualify you from inheriting from your husband unless you gave the cause for the legal separation.

    As to the rights of your husband’s half-siblings to the pieces of property he left, brothers and sisters are not compulsory heirs, and therefore not entitled to a legitime. They are only entitled to inherit in accordance with the rules on intestate succession or pursuant to the provisions of a last will and testament. It appears that your husband did not leave any last will and testament. If this be the case, the rules on intestacy provides that in case the brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, half of the inheritance will be given to the surviving spouse and the remaining half to the siblings or their children” (Art. 1001, CCP). If the half-siblings of your husband are illegitimate, however, then they are not allowed to inherit from your husband by the iron curtain bar rule, which states that “an illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother (Article 992, CCP).

    We hope the foregoing opinion sufficiently answered your concerns. Kindly bear in mind that this opinion is based solely on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should actual facts change.

    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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    1. With the number of so-called “illigitimate children” and couples who purposely do not get married because of the hassle of separating later on, we should change the law to reflect reality and not the other way around.
      Our culture is really mashed-up as reflected in out laws.
      We are behind our neighbours in this case.
      Any child born in or out of wedlock should be considered “legitimate’. Religion has messed up our minds to the “Natural Law”. Men go about procreating and leaving behind father-less children. We condone it by not penalizing the father. We also condemn the children who are innocent in these sexual games of adults.
      It’s about time we man up.

    2. You have heard the saying ” the law is an ass”. A child is a gift from god, thats another filipino important saying. Its not the childs fault he is born he has no say in it whatsoever. How can the law differentiate between an illigitimate child & a legitimate child. Its beyond me & in my eyes its wrong, he is still born from that man & has inherrited his genes just the same as his half siblings.