Siblings co-owners of unpartitioned, inherited property

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I have two siblings who are both working abroad. We are illegitimate children as our mother never married our biological father. She passed away in 2011 without a last will and testament and she left us with a small parcel of land in Nueva Ecija. The title to the land is still under her name because my siblings and I have not had the time to process the transfer. I have been paying for the land taxes since 2011. I kept asking my siblings to help me pay for the taxes because I am having difficulty shouldering them on my own as I have my own family to support, but they just refuse to help me.

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Don’t I have the right to ask them to help me pay this obligation? What can I do? Can I just claim it as my sole property, anyway I am the only one paying for the expenses? Please help me.
Allaine

Dear Allaine,
We regret to inform you that you cannot declare yourself as the sole owner of the subject property. As stated in your letter, your mother passed away without leaving a last will and testament. Given that there is no substantiation whether any of you were disinherited, you and your siblings equally share in the inheritance that your mother left. This encompasses all the property, rights and obligations that your mother owned prior to her demise.

Moreover, since you and your siblings have not yet divided or partitioned the subject property, you are all considered as co-owners thereof. This is in consonance with Article 1078 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which provides: “Where there are two or more heirs, the whole estate of the decedent is, before its partition, owned in common by such heirs, subject to the payment of debts of the deceased.”

The existence of co-ownership among you is not negated by the fact that your siblings refuse to share in the payment of the taxes of the property. There is no law that gives you the right to claim sole ownership merely by reason of the refusal of the other co-owners’ to pay the expenses.

Nevertheless, you have the right to demand from them paymentfor their appropriate share in the expenses, which include payment of such taxes. If they still refuse, inform them that they have the option of formally renouncing or waiving their undivided interest as may be equivalent to their respective shares in the expenses and taxes. But please be informed that such waiver cannot be made if it will be prejudicial to the co-ownership (Article 488, Ibid.).

In the alternative, you may demand the partition of the estate of your mother so as to define and distribute each of your particular shares therein and, in addition, claim from your siblings the reimbursement of their respective shares in such expenses that you have shouldered. It is clearly provided under Article 1087 of the law: “In the partition the co-heirs shall reimburse one another for the income and fruits which each one of them may have received from any property of the estate, for any useful and necessary expenses made upon such property, and for any damage thereto through malice or neglect.”

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

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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