Remedial Law

Heirs of Magdaleno Ypon vs. Gaudioso Ricafrente

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G.R. No. 198680 – 700 SCRA 778 – 713 Phil. 570 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Settlement of Estate – Jurisdiction of Probate Courts – Declaration of heirship can only be made in a special proceedings and not in an ordinary civil action; Declaration of heirship must first be had prior to assertion of right as an heir

In 1968, Magdaleno Ypon died. Sometime thereafter, Gaudioso Ricafrente executed an affidavit of self-adjudication in which he claimed to be the sole heir of Magdaleno. Thereafter, he was able to acquire certificates of title over the properties of Magdaleno.

In 2010, Alvaro Ypon and several other relatives of Magdaleno filed a civil case for cancellation of titles and recovery of properties against Gaudioso. The trial court dismissed the case on the ground that it has no jurisdiction.

ISSUE: Whether or not the trial court has jurisdiction.

HELD: No. The allegations in the complaint filed by Alvaro et al. state that they are the lawful heirs of Magdaleno. Such allegations need to be adjudicated upon before their other prayers, namely, cancellation of the affidavit of self-adjudication, titles issued in the name of Gaudioso, and the recovery of the properties, may be resolved. Hence, they must first be judicially declared first as heirs in a special proceeding before they may file a civil action to enforce their rights as heirs.

Jurisprudence dictates that the determination of who are the legal heirs of the deceased must be made in the proper special proceedings in court, and not in an ordinary suit for recovery of ownership and possession of property. This must take precedence over the action for recovery of possession and ownership. The Court has consistently ruled that the trial court cannot make a declaration of heirship in the civil action for the reason that such a declaration can only be made in a special proceeding.


  1. For the sake of practicality, as when the parties in the civil case had voluntarily submitted the issue to the trial court and already presented their evidence regarding the issue of heirship, and the RTC had consequently rendered judgment thereon (Heirs of Gabatan vs. CA), or
  2. When a special proceeding had been instituted but had been finally closed and terminated, and hence, cannot be re-opened

NOTE: This was reversed by Treyes vs. Larlar

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