Civil Law

Testate Estate of Jose Eugenio Ramirez

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G.R. No. L-27952 – 197 Phil. 647 – 111 SCRA 704 – Civil Law – Law on Succession – Alien Spouse May Inherit From Filipino Spouse

In 1964, Jose Eugenio Ramirez, a Filipino, died. He had no children and he was survived by Marcelle Ramirez, his French citizen wife. He left a will where he made the following dispositions:

a. His estate shall be inherited by his Filipino nephews

b. The usufructuary of the estate shall be distributed as follows: 1/3 to Marcelle and 2/3 to Wanda de Wrobleski (an Austrian).

ISSUE: Whether or not the testamentary provisions are valid.

HELD: No. Giving a mere usufructuary to Marcelle impaired her legitime. Under Art. 900 of the Civil Code “If the only survivor is the widow or widower, she or he shall be entitled to one-half of the hereditary estate.” And since Marcelle alone survived Jose Eugenio, she is entitled to one-half of his estate over which he could impose no burden, encumbrance, condition or substitution of any kind whatsoever.

Thus, half of the estate of Jose Eugenio should go to Marcelle as that is her legitime while the other half (free portion) shall go to his nephews. By this, the Supreme Court recognized that an alien spouse may inherit from the Filipino spouse. The Supreme Court however emphasized that such succession is only valid by way of hereditary succession and not by way of testamentary succession.

As regards the usufructuary in favor of Marcelle, the same is not valid. The SC gave effect to the intent of Jose Eugenio who only really wanted to give 1/3 usufructuary to Marcelle. Since that was Eugenio’s intent, Marcelle cannot inherit more than her legitime.

The usufructuary in favor of Wanda is valid. Such testamentary disposition does not violate the constitution. As stated earlier, an alien may own land in the Philippines by way of hereditary succession only. No alien may own property in the Philippines by way of testamentary succession. However, the “testamentary succession” provided in Eugenio’s will does not really vest title over any real property because a usufructuary does not vest title to anyone over the real property subject of the usufructuary. The SC emphasized: “We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land.”

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