G.R. No. 232579 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Settlement of Estate – Jurisdiction of Probate Courts; Successional rights may be enforced by an heir even without undergoing special proceedings; Abandonment/clarification of the doctrine laid down in the cases of Heirs of Ypon vs. Gaudioso Ricafrente and Heirs of Gabatan vs. CA
Nixon Treyes and Rosie Treyes were husband and wife who have accumulated several real properties in various parts of the Philippines. They have no children. In 2008, Rosie died. She was survived by Nixon and seven siblings (Antonio Larlar et al.).
After the death of Rosie, Nixon executed two affidavits of self-adjudication and he was able to consolidate Rosie’s estate under his name. In 2012, Antonio et al. found out about what Nixon did and they filed a civil action for cancellation of titles and recovery of properties against Nixon on the ground that under the Civil Code, when the brothers and sisters of a deceased married sister survive with her widower, the latter shall be entitled by law to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters to the other half.
Nixon sought for the dismissal of the civil action on the ground that under the cases of Ypon and Gabatan, Antonio et al. must first file for a special proceeding for them to be declared as heirs before they can file a civil action asserting the rights of an heir.
ISSUE: Whether or not Nixon is right.
HELD: No. Ypon and Gabatan and other similar cases were abandoned.
Antonio et al. are not seeking to establish a status or a right. They are not seeking to be declared as heirs. Hence, they are not expected to file a special proceedings case to be declared as heirs of Rosie, their sister. They are heirs by operation of law. Under the law, successional rights arise the moment the predecessor-in-interest dies.
The doctrine in Ypon and Gabatan and other similar cases which declared that a prior determination of heirship in a separate special proceeding as a prerequisite before one can file an ordinary civil action to enforce ownership rights acquired by virtue of succession, is abandoned.
From now on, the rule is: unless there is a pending special proceeding for the settlement of the decedent’s estate or for the determination of heirship, the compulsory or intestate heirs may commence an ordinary civil action to declare the nullity of a deed or instrument, and for recovery of property, or any other action in the enforcement of their ownership rights acquired by virtue of succession, without the necessity of a prior and separate judicial declaration of their status as such. The ruling of the trial court shall only be in relation to the cause of action of the ordinary civil action, i.e., the nullification of a deed or instrument, and recovery or reconveyance of property, which ruling is binding only between and among the parties.
NOTE: The doctrine established in this case is very contentious. There were several Justices who dissented.