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JURISTS BAR REVIEW CENTER™

UPDATES IN SUCCESSION
(BAR REVIEW 2017)
(PROF. ELMER T. RABUYA)

1. Under the Civil Code, the preterition of a compulsory heir in the direct line shall annul the
institution of heirs, but the devises and legacies shall remain valid insofar as the legitimes
are not impaired. Consequently, if a will does not institute any devisees or legatees, the
preterition of a compulsory heir in the direct line will result in total intestacy [Morales v.
Olondriz, 783 SCRA 151 (2016)]. An illegitimate child is a compulsory heir in the direct
line and his omission from the will leads to the conclusion of his preterition [Id.]

2. The general rule is that in probate proceedings, the scope of the court's inquiry is limited to
questions on the extrinsic validity of the will; the probate court will only determine the
will's formal validity and due execution. However, this rule is not inflexible and absolute.
It is not beyond the probate court's jurisdiction to pass upon the intrinsic validity of the
will when so warranted by exceptional circumstances. When practical considerations
demand that the intrinsic validity of the will be passed upon even before it is probated, the
probate court should meet the issue [Morales v. Olondriz, 783 SCRA 151 (2016)]. Thus,
the probate court can resolve the issue of preterition considering that the will does not
contain specific legacies or devises since the effect of preterition is the annulment of the
institution of heirs. The annulment effectively caused the total abrogation of the will,
resulting in total intestacy of the inheritance. The decedent's will, no matter how valid it
may appear extrinsically, is null and void. The conduct of separate proceedings to
determine the intrinsic validity of its testamentary provisions would be superfluous.
[Morales v. Olondriz, 783 SCRA 151 (2016)].

3. Instituted heirs to a part of the free portion of the decedent’s estate cannot claim a stake
over a specific property of the decedent. As instituted heirs only to a part of the free
portion of the estate, they are entitled to receive their share of the same, if any, only after
payment of all debts, funeral charges, expenses of administration, allowance to the widow
and inheritance tax. Otherwise stated, their share would be dependent on whether anything
is left of the estate after payment of all its obligations. [Heirs of Jose Ma. Gepuela v.
Meñez-Andres, 780 SCRA 348 (2010)]

4. In Arado v. Alcoran, 762 SCRA 37 (2015), ponencia by Justice Bersamin, the facts are:
Raymundo Alcoran was married to Joaquina Arado. They had a child, Nicolas Alcoran,
who married Florencia Limpahan. They never had a child. Nicolas, however, had a child
with Francisca Sarita, with whom he had an extramarital affair. Nicolas and Francisca had
a child, Anacleto Alcoran. Raymundo died in 1939 without a will. Pursuant to the Old
Civil Code, his estate was inherited by his child Nicolas (naked title) and by his surviving
spouse Joaquina (usufruct). Nicolas died in 1954 without a will, survived by his mother
(Joaquina), his illegitimate child (Anacleto) and spouse (Florencia). Florencia died
intestate in 1960 survived by her three siblings. Joaquina died intestate in 1981, survived
by her illegitimate grandson (Anacleto), her siblings and nephews and nieces.

RULINGS:

Updates in Succession 2017 by Prof. Elmer T. Rabuya for Jurists Bar Review Center™. All rights reserved 2017 by Jurists
Review Center Inc. Unauthorized reproduction, use, or dissemination is strictly prohibited and shall be prosecuted to the full
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a) Anacleto Alcoran is an illegitimate child of Nicolas Alcoran. While Nicolas did not
sign Anacleto’s birth certificate, nevertheless Nicolas had himself caused the
registration of the birth of Anacleto. Considering that Nicolas, the putative father, had a
direct hand in the preparation of the birth certificate, reliance on the birth certificate of
Anacleto as evidence of his paternity was fully warranted.

b) Upon the death of Nicolas in 1954 without a will, the heirs entitled to inherit from him
pursuant to Article 1000 of the New Civil Code are the following: his mother Joaquina,
getting ½ of the estate; his illegitimate son Anacleto, getting ¼ of the estate; and his
surviving spouse Florencia, getting the other ¼ of the estate.

c) Upon the death of Joaquina in 1981 without a will, her estate was inherited by her
siblings and her nephews and nieces. Anacleto was barred by law from inheriting from
the estate of Joaquina.1âwphi1 To start with, Anacleto could not inherit from Joaquina
by right of representation of Nicolas, the legitimate son of Joaquina. Under Article 992
of the Civil Code, an illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the
legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; in the same manner, such
children or relatives shall not inherit from the illegitimate child. As certified in Diaz v.
Intermediate Appellate Court, the right of representation is not available to illegitimate
descendants of legitimate children in the inheritance of a legitimate grandparent.

5. In Hacbang v. Alo, 772 SCRA 36 (2015), the facts are: Bishop Sofronio Hacbang died in
1937 and he was survived by both parents and four siblings, including Dolores Hacbang
Alo. In his will, he left ½ of his properties to his parents and devised the other ½ to his
sister, Dolores Hacbang Alo. The will was probated and allowed by the probate court in
1937. However, the settlement proceedings were never concluded; the case was archived
in 1957 without any pronouncement as to the intrinsic validity of the will or an
adjudication of the properties. Because of this, the children of the other siblings of Bishop
Sofronio posited that intestate succession should govern. They maintained that the entire
inheritance should have gone to Bishop Sofronio's parents. Thus, they claim to have a legal
interest in the subject property as representatives of the other children of Bishop Sofronio's
parents.

RULING: Our jurisdiction accords great respect to the testator's freedom of disposition. Hence,
testate succession has always been preferred over intestacy. As much as possible, a testator's will
is treated and interpreted in a way that would render all of its provisions operative. Hence, there is
no basis to apply the provisions on intestacy when testate succession evidently applies. Even
though the CFI archived the settlement proceedings, there is no indication that it declared any of
the dispositions in the will invalid. Bishop Sofronio was free to dispose of his estate without
prejudice to the legitimes of his compulsory heirs. Bishop Sofronio's only compulsory heirs were
his parents. Their legitime was one-half of Bishop Sofronio's estate. Considering that Bishop
Sofronio gave his parents half of his estate, then he was free to dispose of the free portion of his
estate in favor of his sister, Dolores Hacbang Alo. Thus, his will was intrinsically valid.

The CFI’s failure to adjudicate the specific properties is irrelevant because Bishop Sofronio did
not just name his heirs; he also identified the specific properties forming part of their inheritance.
The dispositions in the will rendered court adjudication and distribution unnecessary. The
contention that only a final decree of distribution of the estate vests title to the land of the estate in
the distributees is also incorrect. Again, ownership over the inheritance vests upon the heirs,
legatees, and devisees immediately upon the death of the decedent. At the precise moment of

Updates in Succession 2017 by Prof. Elmer T. Rabuya for Jurists Bar Review Center™. All rights reserved 2017 by Jurists
Review Center Inc. Unauthorized reproduction, use, or dissemination is strictly prohibited and shall be prosecuted to the full
extent of the law, including administrative complaints with the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court.
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death, the heirs become owners of the estate pro-indiviso. They become absolute owners of their
undivided aliquot share but with respect to the individual properties of the estate, they become co-
owners. This co-ownership remains until partition and distribution. Until then, the individual heirs
cannot claim any rights over a specific property from the estate. This is because the heirs do not
know which properties will be adjudicated to them yet. Hence, there is a need for a partition
before title over particular properties vest in the distributee-heirs. However, heirs, legatees, and
devisees bequeathed specific properties do not require Court adjudication to identify which
particular properties become theirs; the testator had already identified these. From the very
moment of the testator's death, title over these particular properties vests on the heir, legatee, or
devisee.

6. The heirs are not personally responsible for the debts of their predecessor. The heirs’
extent of liability to the creditor is limited to the value of the estate which they inherited
from the decedent. In our jurisdiction, "it is the estate or mass of the property left by the
decedent, instead of the heirs directly, that becomes vested and charged with his rights and
obligations which survive after his death.” [Planters Development Bank v. Lopez, G.R.
No. 186332, October 23, 2013]

7. Our laws do not prohibit the probate of wills executed by foreigners abroad although the
same have not as yet been probated and allowed in the countries of their execution. A
foreign will can be given legal effects in our jurisdiction. Article 816 of the Civil Code
states that the will of an alien who is abroad produces effect in the Philippines if made in
accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law of the place where he resides, or
according to the formalities observed in his country. [Palaganas v. Palaganas, G.R. No.
169144, January 26, 2011]

8. Reserva troncal is a special rule designed primarily to assure the return of a reservable
property to the third degree relatives belonging to the line from which the property
originally came, and avoid its being dissipated into and by the relatives of the inheriting
ascendant. [Mendoza v. Delos Santos, G.R. No. 176422, March 20, 2013] There are three
(3) lines of transmission in reserva troncal. The first transmission is by gratuitous title,
whether by inheritance or donation, from an ascendant/brother/sister to a descendant called
the prepositus. The second transmission is by operation of law from the prepositus to the
other ascendant or reservor, also called the reservista. The third and last transmission is
from the reservista to the reservees or reservatarios who must be relatives within the third
degree from which the property came. The lineal character of the
reservable property is
reckoned
from the ascendant from whom the
prepositus received the property
by
gratuitous title. [Mendoza v. Delos Santos, supra] The persons involved in reserva
troncal are: (1) The ascendant or brother or sister from whom the property was received by
the descendant by lucrative or gratuitous title; (2) The descendant or prepositus
(propositus) who received the property; (3) The reservor (reservista), the other ascendant
who obtained the property from the prepositus by operation of law; and (4) The reservee
(reservatario) who is within the third degree from the prepositus and who belongs to the
(linea o tronco) from which the property came and for whom the property should be
reserved by the reservor.

9. Following the order prescribed by law in legitimate succession, when there are relatives of
the descendant within the third degree, the right of the nearest relative, called reservatario,
over the property which the reservista (person holding it subject to reservation) should
return to him, excludes that of the one more remote. The right of representation cannot be

Updates in Succession 2017 by Prof. Elmer T. Rabuya for Jurists Bar Review Center™. All rights reserved 2017 by Jurists
Review Center Inc. Unauthorized reproduction, use, or dissemination is strictly prohibited and shall be prosecuted to the full
extent of the law, including administrative complaints with the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court.
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alleged when the one claiming same as a reservatario of the reservable property is not
among the relatives within the third degree belong to the line from which such property
came, inasmuch as the right granted by the Civil Code in Article 811 now Article 891 is in
the highest degree personal and for the exclusive benefit of the designated persons who are
the relatives, within the third degree, of the person from whom the reservable property
came. Therefore, relatives of the fourth and the succeeding degrees can never be
considered as reservatarios, since the law does not recognize them as such. [Mendoza v.
Delos Santos, G.R. No. 176422, March 20, 2013]

10. In reserva troncal, the reservista who inherits from a prepositus, whether by the latter’s
wish or by operation of law, acquires the inheritance by virtue of a title perfectly
transferring absolute ownership. All the attributes of ownership belong to him exclusively.
The reservor has the legal title and dominion to the reservable property but subject to the
resolutory condition that such title is extinguished if the reservor predeceased the reservee.
The reservor is a usufructuary of the reservable property. He may alienate it subject to the
reservation. The transferee gets the revocable and conditional ownership of the reservor.
The transferee’s rights are revoked upon the survival of the reservees at the time of the
death of the reservor but become indefeasible when the reservees predecease the reservor.
It is when the reservation takes place or is extinguished, that a reservatario becomes, by
operation of law, the owner of the reservable property. [Mendoza v. Delos Santos, G.R.
No. 176422, March 20, 2013]

11. While Article 809 allows substantial compliance for defects in the form of the attestation
clause, Richard likewise failed in this respect. The statement in the Acknowledgment
portion of the subject last will and testament that it "consists of 7 pages including the page
on which the ratification and acknowledgment are written" cannot be deemed substantial
compliance. The will actually consists of 8 pages including its acknowledgment which
discrepancy cannot be explained by mere examination of the will itself but through the
presentation of evidence aliunde. [Lopez v. Lopez, G.R. No. 189984, Nov. 12, 2012]

12. Preterition is a concept of testamentary succession and requires a will. It does not apply in
the absence of a will. [Heirs of Policarpio M. Ureta, Sr. v. Heirs of Liberato M. Ureta, G.R.
No. 165748, Sep. 14, 2011]

13. As the CA correctly found, the purported attestation clause embodied in the
Acknowledgment portion does not contain the number of pages on which the deed was
written. The exception to this rule in Singson v. Florentino and Taboada v. Hon.
Rosal,cannot be applied to the present case, as the facts of this case are not similar with
those of Singson and Taboada. In those cases, the Court found that although the attestation
clause failed to state the number of pages upon which the will was written, the number of
pages was stated in one portion of the will. This is not the factual situation in the present
case. [Echavez v. Dozen Construction and Development Corp., G.R. No. 192916, Oct. 11,
2010] Even granting that the Acknowledgment embodies what the attestation clause
requires, we are not prepared to hold that an attestation clause and an acknowledgment can
be merged in one statement. 
That the requirements of attestation and acknowledgment
are embodied in two separate provisions of the Civil Code (Articles 805 and 806,
respectively) indicates that the law contemplates two distinct acts that serve different
purposes. An acknowledgment is made by one executing a deed, declaring before a
competent officer or court that the deed or act is his own. On the other hand, the attestation
of a will refers to the act of the instrumental witnesses themselves who certify to the

Updates in Succession 2017 by Prof. Elmer T. Rabuya for Jurists Bar Review Center™. All rights reserved 2017 by Jurists
Review Center Inc. Unauthorized reproduction, use, or dissemination is strictly prohibited and shall be prosecuted to the full
extent of the law, including administrative complaints with the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court.
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execution of the instrument before them and to the manner of its execution. [Echavez v.
Dozen Construction and Development Corp., G.R. No. 192916, Oct. 11, 2010]

14. The trial court cannot be faulted for passing upon, in a petition for probate of what was
initially supposed to be a donation mortis causa, the validity of the document as a donation
inter vivos and the nullity of one of the donors subsequent assignment of his rights and
interests in the property. The Court has held before that the rule on probate is not inflexible
and absolute. [Del Rosario v. Ferrer, G.R. No. 187056, Sep. 20, 2010]

15. The creation of a perpetual trust for the administration of her properties and the income
accruing therefrom, for specified beneficiaries is not invalid. The trust is upheld, but only
insofar as the first twenty-year period is concerned. The perpetual prohibition against
alienation was valid only for twenty (20) years. [Orendain, Jr. v. Trusteeship of the Estate
of Dona Margarita Rodriguez, G.R. No. 168660, June 30, 2009]

16. A cursory examination of the acknowledgment of the will in question shows that this
particular requirement was neither strictly nor substantially complied with. For one, there
was the conspicuous absence of a notation of the residence certificates of the notarial
witnesses Noynay and Grajo in the acknowledgment. Similarly, the notation of the
testator’s old residence certificate in the same acknowledgment was a clear breach of the
law. These omissions by respondent invalidated the will. (Lee v. Tambago, A.C. No. 5281,
Feb. 12, 2008]

17. Anent the contestants submission that the will is fatally defective for the reason that its
attestation clause states that the will is composed of three (3) pages while in truth and in
fact, the will consists of two (2) pages only because the attestation is not a part of the
notarial will, the same is not accurate. While it is true that the attestation clause is not a
part of the will, the court, after examining the totality of the will, is of the considered
opinion that error in the number of pages of the will as stated in the attestation clause is not
material to invalidate the subject will. It must be noted that the subject instrument is
consecutively lettered with pages A, B, and C which is a sufficient safeguard from the
possibility of an omission of some of the pages. The error must have been brought about
by the honest belief that the will is the whole instrument consisting of three (3) pages
inclusive of the attestation clause and the acknowledgement. The position of the court is in
consonance with the doctrine of liberal interpretation enunciated in Article 809 of the Civil
Code. [Samaniego-Celada v. Abena, G.R. No. 145545, June 30, 2008]

18. Segundo’s document, although it may initially come across as a mere disinheritance
instrument, conforms to the formalities of a holographic will prescribed by law. It is
written, dated and signed by the hand of Segundo himself. An intent to dispose mortis
causa can be clearly deduced from the terms of the instrument, and while it does not make
an affirmative disposition of the latter’s property, the disinheritance of Alfredo,
nonetheless, is an act of disposition in itself. In other words, the disinheritance results in
the disposition of the property of the testator Segundo in favor of those who would succeed
in the absence of Alfredo. [Seangio v. Reyes, G.R. Nos. 140371-72, Nov. 27, 2006] Unless
the will is probated, the disinheritance cannot be given effect. [Id.]

Updates in Succession 2017 by Prof. Elmer T. Rabuya for Jurists Bar Review Center™. All rights reserved 2017 by Jurists
Review Center Inc. Unauthorized reproduction, use, or dissemination is strictly prohibited and shall be prosecuted to the full
extent of the law, including administrative complaints with the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court.
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