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2011 Case Digest in Succession.

GONZALO VILLANUEVA (represented by his heirs), petitioner, vs. SPOUSES FROILAN and LEONILA BRANOCO, respondents. G.R. No. 172804 January 24, 2011 Second Division Carpio, J.

FACTS: Gonzalo Villanueva, represented by his heirs, sued Spouses Branoco to recover a parcel of land. The former claimed ownership over the property thru purchase from Vere, who in turn, bought the property from Rodrigo. Gonzalo declared the property in his name for tax purposes soon after acquiring it. In their answer, the Spouses Baranoco similarly claimed ownership over the property thru purchase from Rodriguez, who in turn, acquired the property from Rodrigo by way of donation. The Spouses entered the property and paid taxes afterwards. The trial court ruled in favor of Gonzalo and declared him owner of the property, and ordered the Spouses Branoco to surrender possession to Gonzalo. The trial court rejected Spouses Branoco’s claim of ownership after treating the Deed as a donation mortis causa which Rodrigo effectively cancelled by selling the Property to Vere. Thus, by the time Rodriguez sold the property to the Spouses, she had no title to transfer. On appeal, the CA granted the Spouses’ appeal and set aside the trial court's ruling. it held that the deed of donation is one of inter vivos. In his petition, Gonzalo seeks the reinstatement of the trial court's ruling. Alternatively, petitioner claims ownership over the Property through acquisitive prescription, having allegedly occupied it for more than 10 years.

ISSUE: Whether or not the contract between Rodrigo and Rodriguez is a donation or a devise?

RULING; It is immediately apparent that Rodrigo passed naked title to Rodriguez under a perfected donation inter vivos. First. Rodrigo stipulated that "if the herein Donee predeceases me, the [Property] will not be reverted to the Donor, but will be inherited by the heirs of x x x Rodriguez," signaling the irrevocability of the passage of title to Rodriguez's estate, waiving Rodrigo's right to reclaim title. This transfer of title was perfected the moment Rodrigo learned of Rodriguez's acceptance of the disposition which, being reflected in the Deed, took place on the day of its execution on 3 May 1965. Rodrigo's acceptance of the transfer underscores its essence as a gift in presenti, not in futuro, as only donations inter vivosneed acceptance by the recipient. Indeed, had Rodrigo wished to retain full title over the Property, she could have easily stipulated, as the testator did in another case, that "the donor, may transfer, sell, or encumber to any person or entity the properties here donated x x x" or used words to that effect. Instead, Rodrigo expressly waived title over the Property in case Rodriguez predeceases her. Second. What Rodrigo reserved for herself was only the beneficial title to the Property, evident from Rodriguez's undertaking to "give one [half] x x x of the produce of the land to Apoy Alve during her lifetime." Thus, the Deed's stipulation that "the ownership shall be vested on [Rodriguez] upon my demise," taking into account the non-reversion clause, could only refer to Rodrigo's beneficial title. Indeed, if Rodrigo still retained full ownership over the Property, it was unnecessary for her to reserve partial usufructuary right over it. Third. The existence of consideration other than the donor's death, such as the donor's love and affection to the donee and the services the latter rendered, while also true of devises, nevertheless "corroborates the express irrevocability of x x x [inter vivos] transfers." Thus, the CA committed no error in giving weight to Rodrigo's statement of "love and affection" for Rodriguez, her niece, as consideration for the gift, to underscore its finding.

Nor can petitioner capitalize on Rodrigo's post-donation transfer of the Property to Vere as proof of her retention of ownership. If such were the barometer in interpreting deeds of donation, not only will great legal uncertainty be visited on gratuitous dispositions, this will give license to rogue property owners to set at naught perfected transfers of titles, which, while founded on liberality, is a valid mode of passing ownership. The interest of settled property dispositions counsels against licensing such practice. Accordingly, having irrevocably transferred naked title over the Property to Rodriguez in 1965, Rodrigo "cannot afterwards revoke the donation nor dispose of the said property in favor of another." Thus, Rodrigo's post-donation sale of the Property vested no title to Vere. As Vere's successor-in-interest, petitioner acquired no better right than him. On the other hand, respondents bought the Property from Rodriguez, thus acquiring the latter's title which they may invoke against all adverse claimants, including petitioner.

In re: IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION TO APPROVE THE WILL OF RUPERTA PALAGANS WITH PRAYER FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR MANUEL MIGUEL PALAGANAS and BENJAMIN GREGORIO PALAGANAS, petitioner, vs. ERNESTO PALAGANAS, respondent. G.R. No. 169144 January 26, 2011 Second Division Abad, J.

FACTS: Ruperta, a Filipino who became a naturalized US citizen, died single and childless. In the last will and testament she executed in California, she designated her brother, Sergio, as the executor of her will for she had left properties in the Philippines and in the U.S. Ernesto, another brother of Ruperta, filed with the RTC, a petition for the probate of Ruperta’s will and for his appointment as special administrator of her estate. However, Manuel and Benjamin, nephews of Ruperta, opposed the petition on the ground that Ruperta’s will should not be probated in the Philippines but in the U.S. where she executed it. Manuel and Benjamin added that, assuming Ruperta’s will could be probated in the Philippines, it is invalid nonetheless for having been executed under duress and without the testator’s full understanding of the consequences of such act. Ernesto, they claimed, is also not qualified to act as administrator of the estate. Meantime, since Ruperta’s foreign-based siblings, Gloria and Sergio, were on separate occasions in the Philippines for a short visit, Ernesto filed a motion with the RTC for leave to take their deposition, which it granted. The RTC directed the parties to submit their memorandum on the issue of whether or not Ruperta’s U.S. will may be probated in and allowed by a court in the Philippiines. The RTC issued an order: (a) admitting to probate Ruperta’s last will; (b) appointing Ernesto as special administrator at the request of Sergio, the U.S.-based executor designated in the will; and (c) issuing the Letters of Special Administration to Ernesto. Manuel and Benjamin appealed to the CA arguing that an unprobated will executed by an American citizen in the U.S. cannot be probated for the first time in the Philippines. The appellate court, in its decision, affirmed the order of the RTC, holding that the RTC properly allowed the probate of the will, subject to respondent Ernesto’s submission of the authenticated copies of the documents specified in the order and his posting of required bond. The CA pointed out that Section 2, Rule 76 of the Rules of Court does not require prior probate and allowance of the will in the country of its execution, before it can be probated in the Philippines.

ISSUE: Whether or not a will executed by a foreigner abroad may be probated in the Philippines although it has not been previously probated and allowed in the country where it was executed?

RULING: 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.

In insisting that Ruperta’s will should have been first probated and allowed by the court of California, petitioners Manuel and Benjamin obviously have in mind the procedure for the reprobate of will before admitting it here. But, reprobate or re-authentication of a will already probated and allowed in a foreign country is different from that probate where the will is presented for the first time before a competent court. Reprobate is specifically governed by Rule 77 of the Rules of Court. Contrary to petitioners’ stance, since this latter rule applies only to reprobate of a will, it cannot be made to apply to the present case. In reprobate, the local court acknowledges as binding the findings of the foreign probate court provided its jurisdiction over the matter can be established.

ATTY. RICARDO B. BERMUDO, petitioner, vs. FERMINA TAYAG-ROXAS, respondent. G.R. No. 172879 February 2, 2011 Second Division Abad, J.

FACTS: Atty. Bermudo, as executor, filed a petition for his appointment as administrator of the estate of Hilario and for the allowance and probate of the latter's will. The testator instituted Roxas as his only heir but several persons, who claimed to be Hilario's relatives, opposed the petition. The RTC rendered a decision, allowing the will and recognizing Roxas as Hilario's sole heir. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the RTC decision. When the decision constituting Roxas as the sole heir became final, Atty. Bermudo who also served as counsel for her in the actions concerning her inheritance, filed a motion to fix his legal fees and to constitute a charging lien against the estate for the legal services he rendered. The RTC granted him fees equivalent to 20% of the estate and constituted the same as lien on the estate's property. Roxas appealed the order to the CA. The CA rendered a decision that modified the RTC Order, limiting Atty. Bermudo's compensation as administrator to what Section 7, Rule 85 of the Rules of Court provides and making his lawyer's fees 20% of the value of the land belonging to the estate. Atty. Bermudo subsequently filed a motion with the RTC for execution and appraisal of the estate on which his 20% compensation would be based. The RTC granted the motion and ordered Roxas to pay Atty. Bermudo P12,644,300.00 as attorney's fees with interest at the rate of 6% per annum. Roxas challenged the order before the CA through a petition for certiorari. Using a different valuation of the land of the estate, the CA ordered Roxas to pay Atty. Bermudo a reduced amount of P4,234,770.00 as attorney's fees with interest at 6% per annum.

ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Bermudo, as administrator, is entitled to collect attorney’s fees?

RULING: Roxas asserts that Atty. Bermudo is not entitled to attorney's fees but only to compensation as administrator in accordance with Section 7, Rule 85 of the Rules of Court. But Atty. Bermudo did not only serve as administrator of the estate. He also served as Roxas' counsel in the suit that assailed her right as sole heir. Atty. Bermudo brought the contest all the way up to the SC to defend her rights to her uncle's estate. And Atty. Bermudo succeeded. Acting as counsel in that suit for Roxas was not part of his duties as administrator of the estate. Consequently, it was but just that he is paid his attorney's fees.

EDUARDO AGTARAP, petitioner, vs. SEBASTIAN AGTARAP, respondents. G.R. No. 177099 June 8, 2011 Second Division Nachura, J.

FACTS: Eduardo filed with the RTC a petition for the judicial settlement of the estate of his deceased father Joaquin. The petition alleged that Joaquin died intestate on without any known debts or obligations. During his lifetime, Joaquin contracted two marriages, first with Lucia, and second with Carida. Joaquin and Lucia had three children—Jesus (dead), Milagros, and Jose (survived by three children, namely, Gloria, Joseph, and Teresa). Joaquin and Caridad had three children--Eduardo, Sebastian, and Mercedes (survived by her daughter Cecile). At the time of his death, Joaquin left two parcels of land with improvements. Joseph, a grandson of Joaquin, had been leasing and improving the said realties and had been appropriating for himself P26,000.00 per month since April 1994. Eduardo further alleged that there was an imperative need to appoint him as special administrator to take possession and charge of the estate assets and their civil fruits, pending the appointment of a regular administrator. In addition, he prayed that an order be issued (a) confirming and declaring the named compulsory heirs of Joaquin who would be entitled to participate in the estate; (b) apportioning and allocating unto the named heirs their aliquot shares in the estate in accordance with law; and (c) entitling the distributees the right to receive and enter into possession those parts of the estate individually awarded to them. The RTC issued an order setting the petition for initial hearing and directing Eduardo to cause its publication. Sebastian filed his comment, generally admitting the allegations in the petition, and conceding to the appointment of Eduardo as special administrator. Joseph, Gloria, and Teresa filed their answer/opposition. They alleged that the two subject lots belong to the conjugal partnership of Joaquin with Lucia, and that, upon Lucia's death, they became the pro indiviso owners of the subject properties. They said that their residence was built with the exclusive money of their late father Jose, and the expenses of the extensions to the house were shouldered by Gloria and Teresa, while the restaurant was built with the exclusive money of Joseph and his business partner. They opposed the appointment of Eduardo as administrator on the following grounds: (1) he is not physically and mentally fit to do so; (2) his interest in the lots is minimal; and (3) he does not possess the desire to earn. They claimed that the best interests of the estate dictate that Joseph be appointed as special or regular administrator. The RTC issued a resolution appointing Eduardo as regular administrator of Joaquin's estate. Consequently, it issued him letters of administration. After the parties were given the opportunity to be heard and to submit their respective proposed projects of partition, the RTC, issued an Order of Partition, and held that the 2 parcels of land are conjugal properties of Joaquin and Lucia. On appeal, the CA dismissed the appeal. After the parties were given the opportunity to be heard and to submit their respective proposed projects of partition, the RTC, issued an Order of Partition, and held that the 2 parcels of land are conjugal properties of Joaquin and Lucia. On appeal, the CA dismissed the appeal. Both Eduardo and Sebastian maintains that the certificates of title of real estate properties subject of the controversy are in the name of Joaquin Agtarap, married to Caridad Garcia, and as such are conclusive proof of their ownership thereof, and thus, they are not subject to collateral attack, but should be threshed out in a separate proceeding for that purpose. According to them, the RTC, acting as an intestate court with limited jurisdiction, was not vested with the power and authority to determine questions of ownership, which properly belongs to another court with general jurisdiction. Sebastian further alleged that Joaquin’s estate have already been settled in 1965 after the payment of the inheritance tax. Moreover, Eduardo alleges that the CA erroneously settled, together with the settlement of the estate of Joaquin, the estates of Lucia, Jesus, Jose, Mercedes, Gloria, and Milagros, in contravention of the principle of settling only one estate in one proceeding. He particularly questions the

distribution of the estate of Milagros in the intestate proceedings despite the fact that a proceeding was conducted in another court for the probate of the will of Milagros, bequeathing all to Eduardo whatever share that she would receive from Joaquin's estate. He states that this violated the rule on precedence of testate over intestate proceedings.

ISSUES: Whether or not the parcels of land belong to the conjugal partnership of Joaquin and Lucia notwithstanding their registration under their registration under the existing certificates of title as registered in the name of Joaquin Agtarap, casado con Caridad Garcia?

RULING: Therefore, in light of the foregoing evidence, as correctly found by the RTC and the CA, the claim of Sebastian and Eduardo that TCT Nos. 38254 and 38255 conclusively show that the owners of the properties covered therein were Joaquin and Caridad by virtue of the registration in the name of Joaquin Agtarap casado con (married to) Caridad Garcia, deserves scant consideration. This cannot be said to be a collateral attack on the said TCTs. Indeed, simple possession of a certificate of title is not necessarily conclusive of a holder's true ownership of property. A certificate of title under the Torrens system aims to protect dominion; it cannot be used as an instrument for the deprivation of ownership. Thus, the fact that the properties were registered in the name of Joaquin Agtarap, married to Caridad Garcia, is not sufficient proof that the properties were acquired during the spouses' coverture. The phrase "married to Caridad Garcia" in the TCTs is merely descriptive of the civil status of Joaquin as the registered owner, and does not necessarily prove that the realties are their conjugal properties.