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Money Matters

Can Illegitimate Children Inherit Property?

We've got the answers to all your important inheritance queries

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Photography: Miguel Nacianceno

When someone in the family dies and a considerable amount of time for mourning has passed, the time comes when the bereaved family has to settle the estate or properties left behind by the deceased. It’s never easy—but what would make this process go smoothly is the presence of a will, a legal document that states how one wishes to have his or her assets distributed after death.

According to lawyers Alejandro M. Tupas III and Adrian B. Campilla, “A will is important to secure the disposition of the decedent’s property before his death. (The decedent refers to the person who died.) This ensures that his property will be divided according to his wishes, and not to be distributed by default, as the law provides.”

But what if a family member leaves no such document? Keep in mind these insights:

Q: Is the division of a property valid even if I did not get what I was entitled to?

A: If the property is not properly divided, regardless whether there is a will or through intestate proceedings, the division of the property may be nullified altogether. The law requires that all compulsory heirs (surviving spouse, children, etc.) are entitled to a particular portion of the estate. If any of the compulsory heirs do not get any portion or does not get the proper apportionment of the estate, then the courts, upon a petition filed, may nullify the division and order that the proper division be made.

Q: Is there a general rule when it comes to the percentage of inheritance each heir is entitled to?

A: Yes. This is called Legitime, where a part of one’s estate is reserved for compulsory heirs: children, parents, spouse, etc. Sharing depends on who survives the decedent.

The general rule is that the following receive the corresponding shares:

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  • Children receive ½ of the estate, divided by the number of children
  • Spouse receives ¼ of the estate, if there is only one legitimate child
  • Spouse receives the same share of each legitimate child, if there are two or more legitimate children
  • Parents do not inherit since they are only secondary to the children of the deceased

 

In case of illegitimate children, they receive ½ of the share of a legitimate child (Articles 892-901 New Civil Code)


Q: I have no idea of the assets my parents left after they had passed away. Are there ways to inquire about their properties?

A: This would entail a detailed investigation, which would require you to coordinate with certain government agencies:

Land properties: Request information from the Register of Deeds. You need to have basic information such as the Transfer Certificate of Title number and its location. 

Cash and other financial accounts: Request confirmation from banks. Note, however, that this may require a court order, in compliance with laws on bank secrecy and integrity of the banking system in the country. (Note: When the Death Certificate has been submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue or BIR for purposes of initiating the estate tax assessment process, the BIR has the power under the law to examine the bank accounts of the deceased to determine the bank balances as of the day of his death, as an exception to the Bank Secrecy Law.)

Shares of stock: Trace this through the public information systems of the Securities and Exchange Commission and/or the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Other intangibles i.e. intellectual property rights: Verify these with the Intellectual Property Office.

Other tangibles: Verify ownership of automobiles with the Land Transportation Office. Other tangible personal assets may have also been registered with the Chattel Mortgage Registry.

The real challenge would be the identification and tracing of other personal items of significant value which are not necessarily registered, such as jewelry.


Q: I was advised to consider purchasing a life insurance policy instead of actual properties to pass on to my children. Is this advisable?

A: It is something to consider. The proceeds of a life insurance policy taken out by the decedent upon his own life, and which designates the heirs as the irrevocable beneficiary, is not subject to estate tax. This ensures property is “transferred,” more or less, at its maximum value.

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