Our parents left a house and lot in the province. My brother and I, the only heirs of our parents, wanted to remain as co-owners of this property as we are considering making this house as our ancestral home and preserve the fond memories of our childhood and our parents as well. For how long can we do this?
You failed to state in your letter whether or not your parents left a last will and testament; hence, we will presume that there was none. As such, the partition of their estate shall be governed by the law on intestate succession (Article 960, New Civil Code of the Philippines).
According to the said law, prior to the partition of the estate of a decedent, the same is owned in common by the heirs. This is particularly provided under Article 1078 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which states:
“Art. 1078. 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.”
It is clear then that the property left by a decedent, before the same is partitioned, is owned in common by the decedent’s heirs. Thus, co-ownership is created. According to the law on co-ownership, each of the co-owners may at any time demand partition of the thing owned in common. Likewise, the co-owners may agree that the thing owned in common shall remain undivided for a certain period of time. This is what Article 494 of the said law states, to wit:
“Art. 494. No co-owner shall be obliged to remain in the co-ownership. Each co-owner may demand at any time the partition of the thing owned in common, insofar as his share is concerned.
“Nevertheless, an agreement to keep the thing undivided for a certain period of time, not exceeding 10 years, shall be valid. This term may be extended by a new agreement.”
Considering the foregoing, you and your brother may agree that the house and lot left by your parents shall remain unpartitioned. As mentioned above, the period may be for a maximum period of 10 years, which may be renewed thereafter.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org