Remedial Law

Spouses Alvarado and Ma. Elena Pastor vs Court of Appeals

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G.R. No. L-56340 – 122 SCRA 885 – Remedial Law – Special Proceedings – Settlement of Estate – Probate Court; Jurisdiction – General Rule: Probate Courts cannot resolve issues of ownership

Alvaro Pastor, Sr. died in June 1966. In October 1966, his wife died. Pastor Sr. had three children. Two were legitimate (now referred to as marital) and one was illegitimate (non-marital). The legitimate children were Alvaro Pastor, Jr. and Sofia Bossio. The illegitimate child was Lewellyn Quemada.

In 1970, Quemada filed a petition for the admission of a holographic will left by Pastor Sr. The only disposition made in the will was that Pastor Sr. was giving 30% of his 42% share in Atlas Mining Corporation.

Pending the determination of the extrinsic validity, the probate court appointed Quemada as special administrator over the entire estate of Pastor Sr. Quemada, as special administrator, then filed a recovery suit against Pastor Jr. as he alleged that he was in possession of several properties of the estate.

In 1972, after determining the extrinsic validity, the will was allowed. The allowance was questioned by Pastor Jr. all the way to the Supreme Court. When it reached the Supreme Court, the case was remanded to the probate court.

In March 1980, the probate court set a hearing on the intrinsic validity of the will. The setting of the hearing was objected to by Pastor Jr. on the ground that the same is premature because the recovery suit filed by Quemada was still pending. It was Pastor Jr.’s argument that the ownership issues in that suit must first be resolved before the intrinsic validity of the will may be resolved.

In August 1980, the probate court directed Atlas Mining to pay accumulated royalties to Quemada. Quemada immediately requested for a writ of garnishment since the order was immediately executory. The writ was granted.

Pastor Jr. then filed a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals questioning the order of the probate court. The Court of Appeals denied the petition. It also denied Pastor Jr.’s motion for reconsideration.

ISSUE: Whether or not the order of the probate court is valid.

HELD: No. There is no basis for the order of the probate court to adjudge that Quemada was the owner of the shares disposed by the will to him (and the royalties thereto).

In a special proceeding for the probate of a will, the issue by and large is restricted to 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. As a rule, the question of ownership is an extraneous matter which the Probate Court cannot resolve with finality. However, for the purpose of determining whether a certain property should or should not be included in the inventory of estate properties, the Probate Court may pass upon the title thereto, but such determination is provisional, not conclusive, and is subject to the final decision in a separate action to resolve title.

In this case, the probate court did not, as it cannot, make any determination as to the ownership of those disputed shares. In fact, the determination of the ownership thereof (as well as the other portions of the estate) is being heard in another court.

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