Sunday, December 25, 2011

Succession has been one of the most difficult yet the most, if not for some, interesting subject in Civil Law. Others would find it complicated but one of the best ways to understand succession is to know the basic.The reason is, one cannot understand one thing if he or she is a stranger to it. And being in a review class, it’s but important for me to fully understand the basics of law.

In this article, we’ll get a glimpse of succession and somehow get to know the fundamental principles of the law.

Succession, being one of the modes of acquiring ownership, has three (3) kinds.  Firstly, the testate succession.  It is a type of succession which results from the designation of an heir, made in a will executed in the form prescribed by law. Meaning, the person who died left a will. Secondly, is the legal or intestate succession. It is that which is effected by operation of law in default of a will or aperson died without leaving a will. Thirdly, is the mixed succession.  This type of succession is effected partly by will and partly by operation of law. Simple, right?
The decedent or the person who died with inheritance is the most important person in succession. Without him or her, there is no succession to talk about. If the said decedent died and left a will, he is called a testator.

Much more than the heir, or the person who can inherit form the decedent,  in succession, as to the rights of the person involved, the most important thing that we need to determine is who is the decedent because from him or from her we would know who are the heirs.
What does these all mean? Let us take a specific case given by one of my law professors. We will call the dead person X. X died leavinga surviving common law wife, a full blood brother and a half blood sister. In his will, X gave his entire estate to his surviving common- law spouse.

The first question in this problem is, “Was his testamentary disposition in accordance with the law on succession. “ This problem would require us to consider whether those who survived are compulsory heirs or not because if the full blood brother or half blood sister are compulsory heirs then the testamentary disposition of X is not valid. However, under the law on testate succession, the full bloodbrother and half blood sister are not compulsory heirs. In fact, they are heirs in the collateral line. In effect, the testamentary disposition of X in giving the entire estate to his common-law spouse is valid. He may give his estate to anyone he pleases who has the capacity to succeed, but subject to the limitations set forth by the law.
The misconception in relation to this problem is about common-law spouse. The misconception here is since the person who survives is only a common law wife, thus she has no capacity to succeed for the reason that he or she is only a paramour. This is not true because as long as they are living together as husband and wife even if without the benefit of marriage theyare considered as common law spouse.  Accordingly, one only becomes a paramour when the other party has a legal impediment. Meaning, he or she is legally married to somebody else.

Since X has no legal impediment, then the common law wife is not incapacitated to succeed since there are no compulsory heirs who survive the decedent.
The second question in the problem here is what if X died intestate. Who will share in his inheritance? Obviously if a person dies intestate, he died without a willthereforewe will be considering who the intestate or legal heirs are.   If the common–law wife, full-blood brother and the half-blood sister survived the decedent, only the full-blood brother and the half-blood sister shall inherit from the decedent. 

Under the law, the common law wife, under intestate succession is not an heir, since she is not married with the decedent.  Thus, she will not inherit. As to the full-blood brother and half-blood sister, they will get a share of the inheritance or estate. This is because under the law of INTESTATE SUCCESSION, brothers and sisters are compulsory heirs under certain circumstances. As such, the full-blood brother will get twice the share of the half-blood sister. The full-blood brother will get 2/3 of the estate’s share while the other 1/3goes to the half-blood sister.
These are just few of the basic principles governing succession. The rules may be complicated but these can be made easy once fully understood.

(The author, Beverly Caboteja, is a graduating law student at the University of Mindanao in Davao City, Philippines. She is a faculty lecturer at ACLC, a top computer school in Davao City)

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