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Bequeathed legitimacy

A child conceived and born outside of wedlock of parents who were not disqualified by any impediment to marry each other at the time of his/her conception may be legitimated by the subsequent marriage of the parents. As a legitimated child, he/she enjoys the same rights of a legitimate child from the time of his/her birth. But how about his/her children and descendants, shall they also be benefitted? This is answered in this case of Martha and her daughter Lucila.

Martha’s parents were Juan and Juana, both single whose intense love for each other inevitably led to the conception and birth of Martha. The lovers even had Martha baptized using Juan’s surname barely four days after her birth.

Then almost two years later Juan and Juana decided to get married. During their marriage they also begot two more sons, Jaime and Leo. So the couple took care of Martha, Jaime and Leo who called them “tatay” and “nanay,” respectively. Martha on the other hand was called by the boys as “Manang” (a term accorded to the elder sister).

Martha grew up and lived under the care of Juan and Juana who supported her, treated and presented her to society as their daughter until she got married. Martha however became a widow after having only one daughter, Lucila. So she went back to live with Juan and Juana together with her only daughter Lucila. Juan built a house for them, visited them in said house almost everyday and even sent his sons Jaime and Leo to keep them company at night.

Eventually Martha also died. Upon her death, Juan who was then also a widower took Martha’s daughter Lucila into his home until Lucila also got married and was taken by her husband to the province. Subsequently Juan likewise died survived by his two sons Jaime and Leo.

Leo however also became ill and since he had no wife, Jaime asked Lucila to come back to Manila to take care of Leo. Later on when Leo died, Jaime took Lucila into his home where Lucila lived with him and his wife Lina, until he also died intestate (without a Will).

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In the intestate proceedings for the settlement of Jaime’s estate his wife Lina claimed that she was the only heir of Jaime entitled to his estate. Lucila however opposed Lina’s claim alleging that she was the legitimate niece of Jaime being the legitimate daughter of Martha, a legitimated sister of Jaime through the subsequent marriage of their parents Juan and Juana, and therefore the only heir to the estate of her said uncle. But pending the settlement of Jaime’s estate, Lina also died. So her heirs pursued her claim through the administrator of her estate.

The lower court however rejected Lucila’s claim and declared that the only heir of the deceased Jaime was his wife Lina and thus decreed that the entire estate of Jaime shall pass to the estate of Lina represented by the administrator. Was the lower court correct?

No. Lucila’s mother Martha was conceived and born of Juan and Juana when the latter were not yet married although they were not disqualified to marry each other. Martha was therefore a natural child of Juan and Juana who was legitimated when the latter subsequently got married (Articles 177-178, Family Code). And as a legitimated daughter, Martha enjoyed the same rights of a legitimate child (Article 179 FC).

On the other hand, when Martha died, the beneficial effect of her legitimization was transferred to her legitimate daughter Lucila (Article 181, FC). So Lucila was entitled to inherit from the brother of her mother Jaime who was a legitimate son of the same parents (Juan and Juana) who legitimated her mother Martha by their subsequent marriage. In fact Lucila as the legitimate daughter of Martha shall benefit from Martha’s legitimization even if Martha died before her parents married because the effects of legitimization shall retroact from Martha’s birth (Article 180-181 FC).

So Jaime’s estate shall be divided between Lucila, the legitimate daughter of his sister Martha who is entitled to the full ownership of the estate and the naked ownership of the other half to which Lina has the usufructuary rights (rights to use and the fruits or income) as surviving spouse (Article 953 in relation to Article 837 Old Civil Code). However the usufructuary right of Lina was extinguished upon her death (Article 513, Civil Code). Hence even the naked ownership with the usufruct of the other half would already belong to Lucila who would thus be the sole heir of the intestate estate of Jaime. This is in accordance with the ruling in the case of Estate of De los Santos vs. Luciano, 60 Phil. 328). Under the New Civil Code (Article 1001) however, Lucila and Lina through her heirs will share one-half each.

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