Remedial Law

Celedonia Solivio vs. Court of Appeals

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G.R. No. 83484 – 261 Phil. 231 – 182 SCRA 119 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Settlement of Estate – Jurisdiction of Probate Courts – Declaration of heirship cannot be had in a separate proceeding

In 1977, Filipino author Esteban Javellana, Jr. died without any heir nor will. He left several properties. Most of his properties were inherited by him from his mother. He was survived by two relatives (two aunts), namely, Concordia Villanueva (his aunt, sister of his father) and Celedonia Solivio, (also his aunt, sister of her mother).

Concordia and Celedonia agreed to undertake the fastest procedure in order to have Esteban’s properties be donated to a foundation to help students in their schooling – for this was the intent of Esteban when he was alive (unfortunately he died of heart attack).

With that agreement, Celedonia filed a petition to be appointed as the administrator of Esteban’s property. She also prayed that she be declared the sole heir. Her petition and prayer were granted.

Four months after the declaration of Celedonia as the sole heir, Concordia filed a motion for reconsideration on the ground that Celedonia is not a sole heir. Her motion was denied on the ground of tardiness. Instead of appealing the order of denial, Celedonia filed a separate civil action for partition in a different court.

The action for partition was granted and the court ordered that the properties of Esteban be divided between Concordia and Celedonia.

ISSUE: Whether or not another court may properly partition a property subject of a settlement proceeding.

HELD: No. The partition case filed by Concordia was not proper. The trial court which heard that case had no jurisdiction. The settlement case was not yet terminated. In the interest of orderly procedure and to avoid confusing and conflicting dispositions of a decedent’s estate, a court should not interfere with probate proceedings pending in a co-equal court. Further, a judicial declaration that a certain person an heir of the decedent is exclusively within the range of the administrator proceedings and cannot properly be made an independent action. A separate action for the declaration of heirs is not proper.

It is the order of distribution directing the delivery of the residue of the estate to the persons entitled thereto that brings to a close the intestate proceedings, puts an end to the administration and thus far relieves the administrator from his duties.

Concordia did the right thing when she filed her motion for reconsideration in an effort to have her be declared as an heir too. When her motion was denied, she should not have filed a separate civil case. She should have filed an appeal on certiorari against the order denying her motion.

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