Illegitimate heir with legal rights

Article 992 of the Civil Code prohibits an illegitimate child from inheriting ab intestate (intestate or without a will) from the legitimate children and parents of his father or mother. This case involving the couple René and Gina is however an exception.

During their marriage, Rene and Gina had accumulated vast real estate and personal holdings but fathered only one son, Randy. When her son Randy was old enough, he married Betty and fathered three children, Lisa, Mely, and Randy Jr. Randy’s marriage to Betty was later annulled, however. Thus, the three children lived with their mother Betty separately from their father Randy and grandparents René and Gina. Thereafter, Randy cohabited with two other women, with whom he had a son Randy II and a daughter Naty.

Unfortunately, Randy predeceased his parents, René and Gina. When he died, his parents took care of his recognized illegitimate natural children, Naty and Randy II, who was then only a 9 month old baby. Rene also asked the court for visitation rights for his other legitimate grandchildren Lisa, Mely and Randy Jr. Initially this was granted, but eventually it stopped because Betty no longer wanted them.

Gina also died, leaving an estate of real and personal property with a probable gross value of 29 million pesos that was part of the marital partnership of properties with Rene. At the time of her death, Gina is survived by her husband René and her legitimate grandchildren Lisa, Mely, Randy Jr., as well as her illegitimate grandchildren Randy II and Naty. René continued to care for Randy II and Naty, later adopting them.

Five years after Gina’s death, her legitimate granddaughter Lisa filed a Petition for Letters of Administration with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), praying that she be appointed administrator of Gina’s estate. René, who was already 89 at the time, opposed the petition. He argued that as Gina’s surviving spouse, he should be the only appointed trustee and should be given legal preference as co-owner of all marital assets left by Gina. He alleged that he was still able to administer them despite his age.

Later, after an unsuccessful attempt to settle the proceedings out of court, Rene filed a protest naming his adopted son, Randy II, to act as administrator in the event that he is named administrator of Gina’s estate.

Thus, Randy II then filed an opposition in intervention echoing the allegations of Rene’s opposition and presenting his own qualifications to administer the estate. During the procedure, however, René died.

After testimony from both parties was heard and evidence presented, the RTC issued a decision naming Randy II as administrator of Gina’s estate. On appeal, however, the Court of Appeal (CA) reversed and reversed said decision and instead appointed Lisa as administrator. The AC focused on Randy II’s status as Randy’s illegitimate child and was therefore barred from representing him in the estate of the latter’s legitimate mother, Gina. Citing Section 992, the CA ruled that Randy II, who is not entitled to inherit from his grandmother Gina, cannot be preferred to Lisa in administering Gina’s estate. Was the CA correct?

No. The basis of article 992 of the Civil Code, called the iron curtain rule, is quite the reverse scenario of the facts at issue here, because the actual relationship between René and Gina, on the one hand, and Randy II, on the other hand. , was akin to the normal relationship of legitimate parents. Randy II was raised from childhood by Gina and Rene, who both recognized him as their grandson. In fact, Randy II is a legally adopted child of Rene, having the right to participate in the distribution of the latter’s estate as a direct heir, and not simply representing his deceased illegitimate father, Randy. Half of the properties included in Gina’s estate were claimed by Rene as part of their marital partnership of gains for the duration of their marriage which remained indeterminate, unliquidated and therefore still confounded with Rene’s.

Thus, it is patently clear that the CA erred in excluding Randy II from the administration of Gina’s estate. As René’s adopted son, his interest in Gina’s estate is as obvious as Lisa’s interest, considering that under the law, René, being the surviving spouse, would have the right to inherit part of Gina’s exclusive property, except for her share in the marital partnership.

Taken together, the facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at least, joint administration by Lisa and Randy II of their grandmother Gina’s estate (Intestat Estate of Suntay etc. vs. Suntay, GR 183053, 16 June 2010).

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