My live-in partner just died, leaving with me our three children. We lived together for twenty years and were able to buy property. I was unemployed then as I was busy tending to the needs of my children and doing household chores. We were both free to marry each other then but we did not marry. What is my right over the property? Can I inherit from my deceased live-in partner?
As can be inferred from your letter, during your cohabitation period with your deceased live-in partner, both of you had no legal impediment to marry. Thus, your property relation was governed by Article 147 of the Family Code of the Philippines, which provides:
“Art. 147. When a man and a woman who are capacitated to marry each other, live exclusively with each other as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or under a void marriage, their wages and salaries shall be owned by them in equal shares and the property acquired by both of them through their work or industry shall be governed by the rules on co-ownership.
In the absence of proof to the contrary, property acquired while they lived together shall be presumed to have been obtained by their joint efforts, work or industry, and shall be owned by them in equal shares. For purposes of Article 147, a party who did not participate in the acquisition by the other party of any property shall be deemed to have contributed jointly to the acquisition thereof if the former’s efforts consistent with the care and maintenance of the family and of the household.
Based on the foregoing, your property relation with your deceased live-in partner was under the regime of co-ownership. Although you did not take part in obtaining or purchasing these pieces of property, your shares are equal. The law considers you to have shared jointly in acquiring them, since you were in charge with the care and maintenance of the family and of the household. Hence, half of the pieces of property belongs to you.
On the other hand, considering that you and your deceased live-in partner were never married, you are not his legal spouse. As such, you are not entitled to inherit from him under the law on intestate succession. If, however, a last will and testament was executed by your live-in partner during his lifetime, bestowing upon you specific pieces of property or portions thereof, and assuming that this will is valid and does not impair the legitime of his compulsory heirs, then by all means you have the right to inherit from him.
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