In January 1983, Andres Pereira died. He was survived by his wife (Victoria Pereira) and his sister (Rita Nagac). Andres died without a will nor did he have any debt. The properties he left were his employment and death benefits as well as a parcel of land.
In March 1983, Rita filed a petition for the issuance of letters of administration to her in order for her to manage the above-mentioned benefits plus one-half of the salary of Victoria as Rita claimed that the same is part of the estate of Andres.
Victoria opposed the petition on the ground that since Andres died intestate and debt-free, there is no need to undergo administration proceedings. Further, the parcel of land left by Andres was already previously settled by her and Rita. Further still, the death benefit claims are exclusive to Victoria as she is the spouse of the deceased.
Rita argued that it is not up to Victoria what properties should form part of the estate; that only the probate court can determine which property should be included in the estate.
ISSUE: Whether or not an administration proceeding is proper if the decedent died intestate and debt-free.
HELD: No. When a person dies without leaving pending obligations to be paid, his or her heirs, whether of age or not, are not bound to submit the property to a judicial administration, which is always long and costly, or to apply for the appointment of an administrator by the Court. It has been uniformly held that in such case the judicial administration and the appointment of an administrator are superfluous and unnecessary proceedings.
When all the heirs are of lawful age and there are no debts due from the estate, they may agree in writing to partition the property without instituting the judicial administration or applying for the appointment of an administrator.
Supposed a decedent dies intestate and without debt but there is an issue as to what properties belong to the deceased/estate, is it necessary for the heirs to undergo administration proceedings?
No. Questions as to what property belonged to the deceased (and therefore to the heirs) may properly be ventilated in the partition proceedings, especially where such property is in the hands of one heir.