Mama, it’s not yours to sell
Remi and Jan owned two parcels of land. They were a prolific couple having been blessed with seven wonderful children. But their family bliss was short lived.
When the couple died, the administration of the said lots was entrusted to one of their children, Encar. All the heirs of Jan and Remi received their shares in the fruits of the subject properties during Encar’s administration thereof. With the death of Encar, the administration of the subject properties was assumed by her daughter, Amy.
Amy, after some time, started withholding the shares of her mother’s sister, Candy and that of the minor children of the deceased brother of her mother, Rado. By the time the partition of the said properties was formally demanded, Candy was the only one still living among the children of Jan and Remi. The rest were survived and represented by their respective descendants and children.
When Amy failed to heed their formal demand, Candy and the descendants of her deceased siblings filed a complaint for partition and damages from which the instant suit stemmed.
Amy, in response, claimed that Candy and the minor children of Rado have already relinquished their shares in consideration of the financial support extended them by her mother, Encar. She said that the minor heirs of Rado, through their mother, Viky conveyed to Encar the undivided share of her minor children in the property involved in this case.
Amy moreover contented that the principle of laches barred Candy and the minor heirs of Rado to demand their shares in the fruits of the property because they have sold or given their share in the said properties to Encar.
Q: Who are the compulsory heirs of Jan and Remi?
A: The children of Jan and Remi, are compulsory heirs who are entitled to a share in the property of the deceased. Art. 980 of the Civil Code states: “The children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares.” The heirs of Rado are also heirs of Remi and Jan, being the children of a child of Remi and Jan; and as such are entitled to their shares in the estate of Remi and Jan.
Q: Can Viky, the mother of the minor children of Rado, sell the latter shares?
A: No. The minor children of Rado inherited by representation in the properties of their grandparents, Remi and Jan. These children, not their mother Viky were the co-owners of the inherited properties.
Viky had no authority or had acted beyond her powers in conveying, if she did indeed convey, to the petitioner’s mother the undivided share of her minor children in the property involved in this case. “The powers given to her by the laws as the natural guardian covers only matters of administration and cannot include the power of disposition.
She should have first secured the permission of the court before she alienated that portion of the property in question belonging to her minor children.” Where the guardians, mothers or grandmothers, did not seek court approval of the sale of properties of their wards, minor children, the Supreme Court declared such sales void.
Q: What is laches?
A: Laches is the failure of or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time to do that which by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier, or to assert a right within reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled thereto has either abandoned it or declined to assert it.
Q: Are Candy and the heirs of Rado barred by laches to recover their shares in the fruits of the property?
A: No. Considering that the parties are closely related to each other and considering also that the parties are many different heirs, some of whom reside outside the Philippines, the passage of six years before the respondents asked for partition through the court is not unreasonable. Hence, the heirs are not guilty of laches.
(Source: Hebron vs. Loyola, G.R. No. 168960, July 5, 2010)
The author is the Dean, College of Law at the Lyceum of the Philippines University; and member of the Board of Trustees, Philippine Association of Law Schools