Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Disinheritance valid when made through a will citing legal cause

Dear PAO,
Our house was built in a property left by my late grandfather.  Recently, my uncle came to our house and demanded that we vacate the property.  He claimed that my father was disinherited by my late grandfather so we do not have any right to the property.  He showed us the last will and testament of my grandfather to prove the disinheritance.  What can we do? Do we not have any right to the property?
Dear Mardy,
Disinheritance is not taken lightly in our jurisdiction.  There are stringent rules before a compulsory heir can be stripped of his or her right to inherit, to wit: The disinheritance must be effected through a will wherein a legal cause shall be specified (Art.  916, Civil Code of the Philippines).
There are two important requisites mentioned in this provision of law. First, the disinheritance must be effected through a will.  This means that it should follow the stringent rules on forms and solemnities of a will, either holographic or notarial.  Otherwise, the disinheritance will be void.   Second, there must be a legal cause for disinheritance, which must be real, not imaginary.  In case of children and other descendants, the legal causes are: 1) conviction for the crime of adultery or concubinage with the spouse of the testator, or any other crime carrying the penalty of civil interdiction; 2) having been found guilty of attempting to kill the testator, his or her spouse, descendants or ascendants; 3) making groundless accusation against the testator of a crime punishable by at least six years of imprisonment; 4) refusal to give support without justifiable cause; 5) maltreatment by word or deed; 6) living a dishonorable and disgraceful life; 7) employing fraud, violence, intimidation, or undue influence to induce the testator to make or modify a will (Art. 919 , Civil Code of the Philippines).
Your father may question his disinheritance using these standards as guide.  He may check if the last will and testament of your grandfather conforms with the requirements set by the Civil Code.  He may also verify the cause of the disinheritance. If it is not included in the legal causes provided by law, or if the same be false or fabricated, your father may question his disinheritance.  In such a case, the other heirs of your grandfather have the burden of proving the truth of the cause (Art. 917, Civil Code of the Philippines). Failure on their part to substantiate the alleged cause would render the disinheritance void.
In addition, our Civil Code expressly provides that “a subsequent reconciliation between the offender and the offended person deprives the latter of the right to disinherit, and renders ineffectual any disinheritance that may have been made” (Art. 922). Hence, your father may also show that he and your grandfather have already reconciled to question the disinheritance if this be the case.
In any event, it is not true that your family does not have any right to the property.  Even if we consider that your father was legally disinherited by your grandfather, your family still has a right on the property he left.  The law clearly states that “the children and descendants of the person disinherited shall take his or her place and shall preserve the rights of compulsory heirs with respect to the legitime” (Art. 923, Civil Code of the Philippines). Thus, the rule on representation will apply. Representation is a right created by fiction of law, by virtue of which the representative is raised to the place and the degree of the person represented, and acquires the rights which the latter would have if he were living or if he could have inherited (Art.
970, Civil Code of the Philippines). This means that you and your siblings, if any, will represent your father and receive his share from the estate left by your grandfather.
We hope you find the foregoing in order. Please bear in mind that the opinion above is based on the facts you presented and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary should actual facts and circumstances change.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to

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