Is a judicial administration proceeding necessary when the decedent dies intestate without leaving any debts? May the probate court appoint the surviving sister of the deceased as the administratrix of the estate of the deceased instead of the surviving spouse? These are the main questions which need to be resolved in this case.
Andres de Guzman Pereira, an employee of the Philippine AirLines, passed away on January 3, 1983 at Bacoor, Cavite without a will. He was survived by his legitimate spouse of ten months, the herein petitioner Victoria Bringas Pereira, and his sister Rita Pereira Nagac, the herein private Respondent
On March 1, 1983, private respondent instituted before Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court of Bacoor, Cavite, Special Proceeding No. RTC-BSP-83-4 for the issuance of letters of administration in her favor pertaining to the estate of the deceased Andres de Guzman Pereira. 1 In her verified petition, private respondent alleged the following: that she and Victoria Bringas Pereira are the only surviving heirs of the deceased; that the deceased left no will; that there are no creditors of the deceased; that the deceased left several properties, namely: death benefits from the Philippine Air Lines (PAL), the PAL Employees Association (PALEA), the PAL Employees Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (PESALA) and the Social Security System (SSS), as well as savings deposits with the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and the Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank (PCIB), and a 300 square meter lot located at Barangay Pamplona, Las Piñas, Rizal and finally, that the spouse of the deceased (herein petitioner) had been working in London as an auxiliary nurse and as such one-half of her salary forms part of the estate of the deceased.
On March 23, 1983, petitioner filed her opposition and motion to dismiss the petition of private respondent 2 alleging that there exists no estate of the deceased for purposes of administration and praying in the alternative, that if an estate does exist, the letters of administration relating to the said estate be issued in her favor as the surviving spouse.
In its resolution dated March 28, 1985, the Regional Trial Court, appointed private respondent Rita Pereira Nagac administratrix of the intestate estate of Andres de Guzman Pereira upon a bond posted by her in the amount of P1,000.00. The trial court ordered her to take custody of all the real and personal properties of the deceased and to file an inventory thereof within three months after receipt of the order. 3
Not satisfied with the resolution of the lower court, petitioner brought the case to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed the appointment of private respondent as administratrix in its decision dated December 15, 1987. 4
Hence, this petition for review on certiorari
where petitioner raises the following issues: (1) Whether or not there exists an estate of the deceased Andres de Guzman Pereira for purposes of administration; (2) Whether or not a judicial administration proceeding is necessary where there are no debts left by the decedent; and, (3) Who has the better right to be appointed as administratrix of the estate of the deceased, the surviving spouse Victoria Bringas Pereira or the surviving sister Rita Pereira Nagac?
Anent the first issue, petitioner contends that there exists no estate of the deceased for purposes of administration for the following reasons: firstly, the death benefits from PAL, PALEA, PESALA and the SSS belong exclusively to her, being the sole beneficiary and in support of this claim she submitted letter-replies from these institutions showing that she is the exclusive beneficiary of said death benefits; secondly, the savings deposits in the name of her deceased husband with the PNB and the PCIB had been used to defray the funeral expenses as supported by several receipts; and, finally, the only real property of the deceased has been extrajudicially settled between the petitioner and the private respondent as the only surviving heirs of the deceased.chanrobles law library
Private respondent, on the other hand, argues that it is not for petitioner to decide what properties form part of the estate of the deceased and to appropriate them for herself. She points out that This function is vested in the court in charge of the intestate proceedings.
Petitioner asks this Court to declare that the properties specified do not belong to the estate of the deceased on the basis of her bare allegations as aforestated and a handful of documents. Inasmuch as this Court is not a trier of facts, We cannot order an unqualified and final exclusion or non-exclusion of the property involved from the estate of the deceased. 5
The resolution of this issue is better left to the probate court before which the administration proceedings are pending. The trial court is in the best position to receive evidence on the discordant contentions of the parties as to the assets of the decedent’s estate, the valuations thereof and the rights of the transferees of some of the assets, in any. 6 The function of resolving whether or not a certain property should be included in the inventory or list of properties to be administered by the administrator is one clearly within the competence of the probate court. However, the court’s determination is only provisional in character, not conclusive, and is subject to the final decision in a separate action which may be instituted by the parties. 7
Assuming, however, that there exist assets of the deceased Andres de Guzman Pereira for purposes of administration, We nonetheless find the administration proceedings instituted by private respondent to be unnecessary as contended by petitioner for the reasons herein below discussed.
The general rule is that when a person dies leaving property, the same should be judicially administered and the competent court should appoint a qualified administrator, in the order established in Section 6, Rule 78, in case the deceased left no will, or in case he had left one, should he fail to name an executor therein. 8 An exception to this rule is established in Section 1 of Rule 74. 9 Under this exception, 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.
Section 1, Rule 74 of the Revised Rules of Court, however, does not preclude the heirs from instituting administration proceedings, even if the estate has no debts or obligations, if they do not desire to resort for good reasons to an ordinary action for partition. While Section 1 allows the heirs to divide the estate among themselves as they may see fit, or to resort to an ordinary action for partition, the said provision does not compel them to do so if they have good reasons to take a different course of action. 10 It should be noted that recourse to an administration proceeding even if the estate has no debts is sanctioned only if the heirs have good reasons for not resorting to an action for partition. Where partition is possible, either in or out of court, the estate should not be burdened with an administration proceeding without good and compelling reasons. 11
Thus, it has been repeatedly held that when a person dies without leaving pending obligations to be paid, his 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." 12
Now, what constitutes "good reason" to warrant a judicial administration of the estate of a deceased when the heirs are all of legal age and there are no creditors will depend on the circumstances of each case.
In one case, 13 We said:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph
"Again the petitioner argues that ‘only when the heirs do not have any dispute as to the bulk of the hereditary estate but only in the manner of partition does section 1, Rule 74 of the Rules of Court apply and that in this case the parties are at loggerheads as to the corpus of the hereditary estate because respondents succeeded in sequestering some assets of the intestate. The argument is unconvincing, because, as the respondent judge has indicated, 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."cralaw virtua1aw library
In another case, We held that if the reason for seeking an appointment as administrator is merely to avoid a multiplicity of suits since the heir seeking such appointment wants to ask for the annulment of certain transfers of property, that same objective could be achieved in an action for partition and the trial court is not justified in issuing letters of administration 14 In still another case, We did not find so powerful a reason the argument that the appointment of the husband, a usufructuary forced heir of his deceased wife, as judicial administrator is necessary in order for him to have legal capacity to appear in the intestate proceedings of his wife’s deceased mother, since he may just adduce proof of his being a forced heir in the intestate proceedings of the latter. 15
We see no reason not to apply this doctrine to the case at bar. There are only two surviving heirs, a wife of ten months and a sister, both of age. The parties admit that there are no debts of the deceased to be paid. What is at once apparent is that these two heirs are not in good terms. The only conceivable reason why private respondent seeks appointment as administratrix is for her to obtain possession of the alleged properties of the deceased for her own purposes, since these properties are presently in the hands of petitioner who supposedly disposed of them fraudulently. We are of the opinion that this is not a compelling reason which will necessitate a judicial administration of the estate of the deceased. To subject the estate of Andres de Guzman Pereira, which does not appear to be substantial especially since the only real property left has been extrajudicially settled, to an administration proceeding for no useful purpose would only unnecessarily expose it to the risk of being wasted or squandered. In most instances of a similar nature, 16 the claims of both parties as to the properties left by the deceased may be properly ventilated in simple partition proceedings where the creditors, should there be any, are protected in any event.chanrobles virtual lawlibrary
We, therefore, hold that the court below before which the administration proceedings are pending was not justified in issuing letters of administration, there being no good reason for burdening the estate of the deceased Andres de Guzman Pereira with the costs and expenses of an administration proceeding.
With the foregoing ruling, it is unnecessary for us to delve into the issue of who, as between the surviving spouse Victoria Bringas Pereira and the sister Rita Pereira Nagac, should be preferred to be appointed as administratrix.
WHEREFORE, the letters of administration issued by the Regional Trial Court of Bacoor to Rita Pereira Nagac are hereby revoked and the administration proceeding dismissed without prejudice to the right of private respondent to commence a new action for partition of the property left by Andres de Guzman Pereira. No costs.
Narvasa, Cruz, Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ.
1. Page 27, Rollo.
2. Page 29, Supra.
3. Page 3, Rollo.
4. Page 33, Supra.
5. Ortega v. Court of Appeals (1987).
6. Sebial v. Sebial, 64 SCRA 385 (1975).
7. Ortega v. Court of Appeals, Supra; Valera v. Inserto, 149 SCRA 553 (1987); Vda. de Rodriquez v. Court of Appeals, 91 SCRA 540 (1979); Cuizon v. Remolete; 129 SCRA 495 (1984); Lachenal v. Salas, 71 SCRA 262 (1976); Coca v. Borromeo, 81 SCRA 278 (1978); Garcia v. Garcia, 67 Phil. 353 (1939); Guinguin v. Abuton, 48 Phil 144 (1925).
8. Utulo v. Pasion vda. de Garcia, 66 Phil. 303 (1938).
9. "Section 1. Extrajudicial settlement by agreement between heirs. — If the decedent left no will and no debts and the heirs are all of age, or the minors are represented by their judicial or legal representatives duly authorized for the purpose, the parties may, without securing letters of administration, divide the estate among themselves as they see fit by means of a public instrument filed in the office of the register of deeds, and should they disagree, they may do so in an ordinary action of partition . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library
10. Rodriguez, Et. Al. v. Tan, etc. and Rodriguez, 92 Phil. 273 (1952).
11. Intestate Estate of Mercado v. Magtibay, 96 Phil. 383 (1953) citing Monserrat v. Ibañez, G.R No. L-3369, May 24, 1950.
12. Utulo v. Pasion de Garcia, supra; Fule v. Fule, 46 Phil. 317 (1924); Baldemor v. Malangyaon, 34 Phil. 367 (1916); Bondad v. Bondad, 34 Phil. 232 (1916); Malafasan v. Ignacio; 19 Phil. 434 (1911); Ilustre v. Alaras Frondora; 17 Phil. 321 (1910). In Orozco v. Garcia, 50 Phil 149, it was held that there is nothing in Section 1, Rule 74 which prohibits the heirs from instituting special proceeding for the administration of the intestate estate, if they cannot agree in the extrajudicial partition and apportionment of the same. Utulo v. Pasion Vda. de Garcia, Supra reaffirmed the doctrine laid down in the cases previous to Orozco,.
13. Monserrat v. Ibañez, Supra cited in Intestate Estate of Mercado v. Magtibay, Supra.
14. Intestate Estate of Mercado v. Magtibay, supra.
15. Utulo v. Pasion vda. de Garcia, supra.
16. Intestate Estate of Mercado v. Magtibay, supra.