Rule 92-97 Guardians and Guardianship

Alamayri vs. Pabale (GR: 151243)

A petition for appointment of a guardian is a special proceeding, without the usual parties, i.e., petitioner versus respondent, in an ordinary civil case. Accordingly, SP. PROC. No. 146-86-C bears the title: In re: Guardianship of Nelly S. Nave for Incompetency, Verdasto Gesmundo y Banayo, petitioner, with no named respondent/s.

Sections 2 and 3 of Rule 93 of the Rules of Court, though, require that the petition contain the names, ages, and residences of relatives of the supposed minor or incompetent and those having him in their care, so that those residing within the same province as the minor or incompetent can be notified of the time and place of the hearing on the petition.

The objectives of an RTC hearing a petition for appointment of a guardian under Rule 93 of the Rules of Court is to determine, first, whether a person is indeed a minor or an incompetent who has no capacity to care for himself and/or his properties; and, second, who is most qualified to be appointed as his guardian. The rules reasonably assume that the people who best could help the trial court settle such issues would be those who are closest to and most familiar with the supposed minor or incompetent, namely, his relatives living within the same province and/or the persons caring for him.

It is significant to note that the rules do not necessitate that creditors of the minor or incompetent be likewise identified and notified. The reason is simple: because their presence is not essential to the proceedings for appointment of a guardian. It is almost a given, and understandably so, that they will only insist that the supposed minor or incompetent is actually capacitated to enter into contracts, so as to preserve the validity of said contracts and keep the supposed minor or incompetent obligated to comply therewith.

Oropesa vs. Oropesa (GR:  184528)

In a guardianship proceeding, a court may appoint a qualified guardian if the prospective ward is proven to be a minor or an incompetent.

A reading of Section 2, Rule 92 of the Rules of Court tells us that persons who, though of sound mind but by reason of age, disease, weak mind or other similar causes, are incapable of taking care of themselves and their property without outside aid are considered as incompetents who may properly be placed under guardianship.

Cabales vs. CA (GR: 162421)

The legal guardian only has the plenary power of administration of the minors property. It does not include the power of alienation which needs judicial authority. Thus, when Saturnina, as legal guardian of petitioner Rito, sold the latters pro-indiviso share in subject land, she did not have the legal authority to do so.

Rivero vs. CA (GR: 141273)

In resolving whether to appoint a guardian ad litem for the respondent, the appellate court needed only to determine whether the individual for whom a guardian was proposed was so incapable of handling personal and financial affairs as to warrant the need for the appointment of a temporary guardian. It only needed to make a finding that, based on clear and convincing evidence, the respondent is incompetent and that it is more likely than not that his welfare requires the immediate appointment of a temporary guardian. A finding that the person for whom a guardian ad litem is proposed is incapable of managing his own personal and financial affairs by reason of his mental illness is enough.

Guardians ad litem are considered officers of the court in a limited sense, and the office of such guardian is to represent the interest of the incompetent or the minor. Whether or not to appoint a guardian ad litem for the petitioners is addressed to the sound discretion of the court where the petition was filed, taking into account the best interest of the incompetent or the minor. The court has discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem that will best promote the interest of justice. The appointment of a guardian ad litem is designed to assist the court in its determination of the incompetents best interest.

 

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Rule 91 – Escheats

Republic of the Phils. vs. CA (GR: 143483)

Escheat is a proceeding, unlike that of succession or assignment, whereby the state, by virtue of its sovereignty, steps in and claims the real or personal property of a person who dies intestate leaving no heir. In the absence of a lawful owner, a property is claimed by the state to forestall an open “invitation to self-service by the first comers.” Since escheat is one of the incidents of sovereignty, the state may, and usually does, prescribe the conditions and limits the time within which a claim to such property may be made. The procedure by which the escheated property may be recovered is generally prescribed by statue, and a time limit is imposed within which such action must be brought.

In this jurisdiction, a claimant to an escheated property must file his claim “within five (5) years from the date of such judgment, such person shall have possession of and title to the same, or if sold, the municipality or city shall be accountable to him for the proceeds, after deducting the estate; but a claim not made shall be barred forever.” The 5-year period is not a device capriciously conjured by the state to defraud any claimant; on the contrary, it is decidedly prescribed to encourage would-be claimants to be punctilious in asserting their claims, otherwise they may lose them forever in a final judgment.

 

Rule 84 – Gneral Powers and Duties of Executors and Administrators

The Estate of Ruiz vs. CA (GR: 118671)

petitioner cannot correctly claim that the assailed order deprived him of his right to take possession of all the real and personal properties of the estate. The right of an executor or administrator to the possession and management of the real and personal properties of the deceased is not absolute and can only be exercised so long as it is necessary for the payment of the debts and expenses of administration, Section 3 of Rule 84 of the Revised Rules of Court explicitly provides:

Sec. 3. Executor or administrator to retain whole estate to pay debts, and to administer estate not willed. – An executor or administrator shall have the right to the possession and management of the real as well as the personal estate of the deceased so long as it is necessary for the payment of the debts and expenses for administration.

When petitioner moved for further release of the funds deposited with the clerk of court, he had been previously granted by the probate court certain amounts for repair and maintenance expenses on the properties of the estate, and payment of the real estate taxes thereon. But petitioner moved again for the release of additional funds for the same reasons he previously cited. It was correct for the probate court to require him to submit an accounting of the necessary expenses for administration before releasing any further money in his favor.

 

Rule 78 – Letters Testamentary and of Administration, When and to Whom Issued

In Re: Intestate Estate of Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay (GR: 183053)

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court lists the order of preference in the appointment of an administrator of an estate…

However, the order of preference is not absolute for it depends on the attendant facts and circumstances of each case. Jurisprudence has long held that the selection of an administrator lies in the sound discretion of the trial court.  In the main, the attendant facts and circumstances of this case necessitate, at the least, a joint administration by both respondent and Emilio III of their grandmothers, Cristinas, estate.

Ocampo vs. Ocampo (GR:  187879)

It may be mentioned that, despite the filing by respondents of their Opposition and Comment to the motion to revoke the special administration, the prayer for the appointment of Melinda as regular administratrix of the estate was not specifically traversed in the said pleading. Thus, the capacity, competency, and legality of Melindas appointment as such was not properly objected to by respondents despite being the next of kin to the decedent spouses, and was not threshed out by the RTC acting as a probate court in accordance with the above mentioned Rules.

However, having in mind the objective of facilitating the settlement of the estate of Vicente and Maxima, with a view to putting an end to the squabbles of the heirs, we take into account the fact that Melinda, pursuant to the RTC Order dated March 13, 2008, already posted the required bond of P200,000.00 on March 26, 2008, by virtue of which, Letters of Administration were issued to her the following day, and that she filed an Inventory of the Properties of the Estate dated April 15, 2008. These acts clearly manifested her intention to serve willingly as administratrix of the decedents estate, but her appointment should be converted into one of special administration, pending the proceedings for regular administration. Furthermore, since it appears that the only unpaid obligation is the hospital bill due from Leonardos estate, which is not subject of this case, judicial partition may then proceed with dispatch.

Avelino vs. CA (GR:  115181)

When a person dies intestate, or, if testate, failed to name an executor in his will or the executor so named is incompetent, or refuses the trust, or fails to furnish the bond required by the Rules of Court, then the decedent’s estate shall be judicially administered and the competent court shall appoint a qualified administrator in the order established in Section 6 of Rule 78. The exceptions to this rule are found in Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 74.

San Luis vs. San Luis (GR: 133743)

Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court states that letters of administration may be granted to the surviving spouse of the decedent. However, Section 2, Rule 79 thereof also provides in part:

SEC. 2. Contents of petition for letters of administration. A petition for letters of administration must be filed by an interested person and must show, as far as known to the petitioner: x x x.

An interested person has been defined as one who would be benefited by the estate, such as an heir, or one who has a claim against the estate, such as a creditor. The interest must be material and direct, and not merely indirect or contingent.

In the instant case, respondent would qualify as an interested person who has a direct interest in the estate of Felicisimo by virtue of their cohabitation, the existence of which was not denied by petitioners.

Nittscher vs. Nittscher (GR: 160530)

In this case, records show that petitioner, with whom Dr. Nittscher had no child, and Dr. Nittscher’s children from his previous marriage were all duly notified, by registered mail, of the probate proceedings. Petitioner even appeared in court to oppose respondents petition for the issuance of letters testamentary and she also filed a motion to dismiss the said petition. She likewise filed a motion for reconsideration of the issuance of the letters testamentary and of the denial of her motion to dismiss. We are convinced petitioner was accorded every opportunity to defend her cause. Therefore, petitioners allegation that she was denied due process in the probate proceedings is without basis.

Heirs of Castillo vs. Lacuata-Gabriel (GR:  162934)

The ruling of the CA is correct. The Court has repeatedly held that the appointment of a special administrator lies in the sound discretion of the probate court. A special administrator is a representative of a decedent appointed by the probate court to care for and preserve his estate until an executor or general administrator is appointed. When appointed, a special administrator is regarded not as a representative of the agent of the parties suggesting the appointment, but as the administrator in charge of the estate, and, in fact, as an officer of the court. As such officer, he is subject to the supervision and control of the probate court and is expected to work for the best interests of the entire estate, especially its smooth administration and earliest settlement.

The principal object of appointment of temporary administrator is to preserve the estate until it can pass into hands of person fully authorized to administer it for the benefit of creditors and heirs. In many instances, the appointment of administrators for the estates of decedents frequently become involved in protracted litigations, thereby exposing such estates to great waste and losses unless an authorized agent to collect the debts and preserve the assets in the interim is appointed. The occasion for such an appointment, likewise, arises where, for some cause, such as a pendency of a suit concerning the proof of the will, regular administration is delayed.

Rule 77 – Allowance of Will Proved Outside of Philippines and Administration of Estate Thereunder

In Re: Palaganas (GR: 169144)

The key issue presented in this case is 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.

Our rules require merely that the petition for the allowance of a will must show, so far as known to the petitioner: (a) the jurisdictional facts; (b) the names, ages, and residences of the heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator or decedent; (c) the probable value and character of the property of the estate; (d) the name of the person for whom letters are prayed; and (e)  if the will has not been delivered to the court, the name of the person having custody of it. Jurisdictional facts refer to the fact of death of the decedent, his residence at the time of his death in the province where the probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the estate he left in such province. The rules do not require proof that the foreign will has already been allowed and probated in the country of its execution.

In insisting that Rupertas 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.

Ancheta vs. Guersey-Dalaygon (GR: 139868)

Petitioners failure to proficiently manage the distribution of Audreys estate according to the terms of her will and as dictated by the applicable law amounted to extrinsic fraud. Hence the CA Decision annulling the RTC Orders dated February 12, 1988 and April 7, 1988, must be upheld.

It is undisputed that Audrey Guersey was an American citizen domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A. During the reprobate of her will in Special Proceeding No. 9625, it was shown, among others, that at the time of Audreys death, she was residing in the Philippines but is domiciled in Maryland, U.S.A.; her Last Will and Testament dated August 18, 1972 was executed and probated before the Orphans Court in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A., which was duly authenticated and certified by the Register of Wills of Baltimore City and attested by the Chief Judge of said court; the will was admitted by the Orphans Court of Baltimore City on September 7, 1979; and the will was authenticated by the Secretary of State of Maryland and the Vice Consul of the Philippine Embassy.

xxx

Petitioner admitted that he failed to introduce in evidence the law of the State of Maryland on Estates and Trusts, and merely relied on the presumption that such law is the same as the Philippine law on wills and succession. Thus, the trial court peremptorily applied Philippine laws and totally disregarded the terms of Audreys will. The obvious result was that there was no fair submission of the case before the trial court or a judicious appreciation of the evidence presented.

 

Rule 76 – Allowance or Disallowance of Will

Alaban vs. CA (GR: 156021)

Under the Rules of Court, any executor, devisee, or legatee named in a will, or any other person interested in the estate may, at any time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction to have the will allowed. Notice of the time and place for proving the will must be published for three (3) consecutive weeks, in a newspaper of general circulation in the province, as well as furnished to the designated or other known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator. Thus, it has been held that a proceeding for the probate of a will is one in rem, such that with the corresponding publication of the petition the court’s jurisdiction extends to all persons interested in said will or in the settlement of the estate of the decedent.

Publication is notice to the whole world that the proceeding has for its object to bar indefinitely all who might be minded to make an objection of any sort against the right sought to be established. It is the publication of such notice that brings in the whole world as a party in the case and vests the court with jurisdiction to hear and decide it. Thus, even though petitioners were not mentioned in the petition for probate, they eventually became parties thereto as a consequence of the publication of the notice of hearing.

Siangio vs. Hon. Reyes (GR 140371-72)

Segundos 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 latters 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.

Moreover, it is a fundamental principle that the intent or the will of the testator, expressed in the form and within the limits prescribed by law, must be recognized as the supreme law in succession. All rules of construction are designed to ascertain and give effect to that intention. It is only when the intention of the testator is contrary to law, morals, or public policy that it cannot be given effect.

Holographic wills, therefore, being usually prepared by one who is not learned in the law, as illustrated in the present case, should be construed more liberally than the ones drawn by an expert, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the execution of the instrument and the intention of the testator. In this regard, the Court is convinced that the document, even if captioned as Kasulatan ng Pag-Aalis ng Mana, was intended by Segundo to be his last testamentary act and was executed by him in accordance with law in the form of a holographic will. Unless the will is probated, the disinheritance cannot be given effect.

Considering that the questioned document is Segundos holographic will, and that the law favors testacy over intestacy, the probate of the will cannot be dispensed with. Article 838 of the Civil Code provides that no will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court. Thus, unless the will is probated, the right of a person to dispose of his property may be rendered nugatory.

Maloles vs. Phillips  (GR: 129505)

In cases for the probate of wills, it is well-settled that the authority of the court is limited to ascertaining the extrinsic validity of the will, i.e., whether the testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed by law.

Ordinarily, probate proceedings are instituted only after the death of the testator, so much so that, after approving and allowing the will, the court proceeds to issue letters testamentary and settle the estate of the testator. The cases cited by petitioner are of such nature. In fact, in most jurisdictions, courts cannot entertain a petition for probate of the will of a living testator under the principle of ambulatory nature of wills.

However, Art. 838 of the Civil Code authorizes the filing of a petition for probate of the will filed by the testator himself. It provides:

Civil Code, Art. 838. No will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court.

The testator himself may, during his lifetime, petition the court having jurisdiction for the allowance of his will. In such case, the pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court for the allowance of wills after the testators death shall govern.

The Supreme Court shall formulate such additional Rules of Court as may be necessary for the allowance of wills on petition of the testator.

Subject to the right of appeal, the allowance of the will, either during the lifetime of the testator or after his death, shall be conclusive as to its due execution.

Baltazar vs. Laxa (GR: 174489)

Issue:

THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS SERIOUSLY ERRED WHEN IT ALLOWED THE PROBATE OF PACIENCIAS WILL DESPITE RESPONDENTS UTTER FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 11, RULE 76 OF THE RULES OF COURT;

They insist that all subscribing witnesses and the notary public should have been presented in court since all but one witness, Francisco, are still living.

We cannot agree with petitioners.

We note that the inability of Faustino and Judge Limpin to appear and testify before the court was satisfactorily explained during the probate proceedings. As testified to by his son, Faustino had a heart attack, was already bedridden and could no longer talk and express himself due to brain damage. To prove this, said witness presented the corresponding medical certificate. For her part, Dra. Limpin testified that her father, Judge Limpin, suffered a stroke in 1991 and had to undergo brain surgery. At that time, Judge Limpin could no longer talk and could not even remember his daughters name so that Dra. Limpin stated that given such condition, her father could no longer testify. It is well to note that at that point, despite ample opportunity, petitioners neither interposed any objections to the testimonies of said witnesses nor challenged the same on cross examination.

We thus hold that for all intents and purposes, Lorenzo was able to satisfactorily account for the incapacity and failure of the said subscribing witness and of the notary public to testify in court. Because of this the probate of Paciencias Will may be allowed on the basis of Dra. Limpins testimony proving her sanity and the due execution of the Will, as well as on the proof of her handwriting. It is an established rule that [a] testament may not be disallowed just because the attesting witnesses declare against its due execution; neither does it have to be necessarily allowed just because all the attesting witnesses declare in favor of its legalization; what is decisive is that the court is convinced by evidence before it, not necessarily from the attesting witnesses, although they must testify, that the will was or was not duly executed in the manner required by law.

 

 

Rule 74 – Summary Settlement of Estates

Pedrosa vs. CA (GR:  118680)

Section 4, Rule 74 provides for a two year prescriptive period (1) to persons who have participated or taken part or had notice of the extrajudicial partition, and in addition (2) when the provisions of Section 1 of Rule 74 have been strictly complied with, i.e., that all the persons or heirs of the decedent have taken part in the extrajudicial settlement or are represented by themselves or through guardians.

Petitioner, as the records confirm, did not participate in the extrajudicial partition. Patently then, the two-year prescriptive period is not applicable in her case.

The applicable prescriptive period here is four (4) years as provided in Gerona vs. De Guzman, 11 SCRA 153 (1964), which held that:

The action to annul] a deed of extrajudicial settlement upon the ground of fraud…may be filed within four years from the discovery of the fraud. Such discovery is deemed to have taken place when said instrument was filed with the Register of Deeds and new certificates of title were issued in the name of respondents exclusively.

Sps. Arenas vs. Roces (GR:  147468)

As stated above, the titles, namely, TCT Nos. 7299 and 7673, contained annotations which made reference to the provisions of Rule 74, Section 4 of the Rules of Court, viz:

SEC. 4. Liability of distributees and estate. If it shall appear at any time within two (2) years after the settlement and distribution of an estate in accordance with the provisions of either of the first two sections of this rule, that an heir or other person has been unduly deprived of his lawful participation in the estate, such heir or such other person may compel the settlement of the estate in the courts in the manner hereinafter provided for the purpose of satisfying such lawful participation. And if within the same time of two (2) years, it shall appear that there are debts outstanding against the estate which have not been paid, or that an heir or other person has been unduly deprived of his lawful participation payable in money, the court having jurisdiction of the estate may, by order for that purpose, after hearing, settle the amount of such debts or lawful participation and order how much and in what manner each distributee shall contribute in the payment thereof, and may issue execution, if circumstances require, against the bond provided in the preceding section or against the real estate belonging to the deceased, or both. Such bond and such real estate shall remain charged with a liability to creditors, heirs, or other persons for the full period of two (2) years after such distribution, notwithstanding any transfers of real estate that may have been made.

The foregoing rule clearly covers transfers of real property to any person, as long as the deprived heir or creditor vindicates his rights within two years from the date of the settlement and distribution of estate. Contrary to petitioners contention, the effects of this provision are not limited to the heirs or original distributees of the estate properties, but shall affect any transferee of the properties.

In David vs. Malay, it was held that the buyer of real property the title of which contain an annotation pursuant to Rule 74, Section 4 of the Rules of Court cannot be considered innocent purchasers for value. In the same vein, the annotation at the back of TCT No. 7299 in this case referring to Rule 74, Section 4 of the Rules of Court was sufficient notice to petitioners of the limitation on Montinolas right to dispose of the property. The presence of an irregularity which excites or arouses suspicion should prompt the vendee to look beyond the certificate and investigate the title of the vendor appearing on the face thereof. Purchasers of registered land are bound by the annotations found at the back of the certificate of title.

Hence, petitioners cannot be considered buyers in good faith and cannot now avoid the consequences brought about by the application of Rule 74, Section 4 of the Rules of Court.

PEZA vs. Hon. Fernandez (GR: 138971)

In the present case, private respondents are deemed to have been constructively notified of the extrajudicial settlement by reason of its registration and annotation in the certificate of title over the subject lot. From the time of registration, private respondents had two (2) years or until July 8, 1984, within which to file their objections or to demand the appropriate settlement of the estate.

On the matter of constructive notice vis–vis prescription of an action to contest an extrajudicial partition, a leading authority on land registration elucidates as follows:

While it may be true that an extrajudicial partition is an ex parte proceeding, yet after its registration under the Torrens system and the annotation on the new certificate of title of the contingent liability of the estate for a period of two years as prescribed in Rule 74, Section 4, of the Rules of Court, by operation of law a constructive notice is deemed made to all the world, so that upon the expiration of said period all third persons should be barred [from going] after the particular property, except where title thereto still remains in the names of the alleged heirs who executed the partition tainted with fraud, or their transferees who may not qualify as innocent purchasers for value.

The only exception to the above-mentioned prescription is when the title remains in the hands of the heirs who have fraudulently caused the partition of the subject property or in those of their transferees who cannot be considered innocent purchasers for value.

In this regard, title to the property in the present case was no longer in the name of the allegedly fraudulent heirs, but already in that of an innocent purchaser for value the government. Moreover, the government is presumed to have acted in good faith in the acquisition of the lot, considering that title thereto was obtained through a Compromise Agreement judicially approved in proper expropriation proceedings.

Even assuming that there was in fact fraud on the part of the other heirs, private respondents may proceed only against the defrauding heirs, not against petitioner which had no participation in or knowledge of the alleged fraud. The fact that the co-heirs title to the property was fraudulently secured cannot prejudice the rights of petitioner which, absent any showing that it had knowledge or participation in the irregularity, is considered a purchaser in good faith and for value.

The remedy of an owner alleged to have been prejudiced or fraudulently deprived of property that was subsequently sold to an innocent purchaser for value is an action for damages against the person or persons who perpetrated the fraud.

Cua vs. Vargas (GR:  156536)

J. Azcuna:

The procedure outlined in Section 1 of Rule 74 is an ex parte proceeding. The rule plainly states, however, that persons who do not participate or had no notice of an extrajudicial settlement will not be bound thereby. It contemplates a notice that has been sent out or issued before any deed of settlement and/or partition is agreed upon (i.e., a notice calling all interested parties to participate in the said deed of extrajudicial settlement and partition), and not after such an agreement has already been executed as what happened in the instant case with the publication of the first deed of extrajudicial settlement among heirs.

The publication of the settlement does not constitute constructive notice to the heirs who had no knowledge or did not take part in it because the same was notice after the fact of execution. The requirement of publication is geared for the protection of creditors and was never intended to deprive heirs of their lawful participation in the decedents estate. In this connection, the records of the present case confirm that respondents never signed either of the settlement documents, having discovered their existence only shortly before the filing of the present complaint. Following Rule 74, these extrajudicial settlements do not bind respondents, and the partition made without their knowledge and consent is invalid insofar as they are concerned.