Valid and binding

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

This is a case about the partition of the estate of a deceased. The main issue raised and resolve here is whether an oral partition of the estate is valid and binding upon the heirs, which is answered in this case of the heirs of Teresa.

Teresa was a widow with six children: Linda, Myrna, Rolly, Dely, Lita and Tita. When she died, she left behind real and personal properties as well as shares and interests in some other real properties. Thus, her intestate estate was partitioned by the heirs. However, Linda alleged that she did not receive her lawful share. So, she filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) a complaint against her siblings for partition and accounting with damages.

In answer to the complaint, her siblings Rolly, Dely, Lita and Tita alleged that it was Linda who intentionally refused to show documents pertaining to the estate of their mother, and was receiving her share from the income of the properties left by their mother and thus was not entitled to the reliefs prayed for. Nevertheless, they said that they are willing to settle the case amicably. Later on, Myrna also filed her answer, alleging that she is in favor of the partition and accounting of the properties of their mother.

Hence, during the mediation conferences, all the parties attended and successfully arrived at an agreement on the manner of dividing the estate. After the compromise agreement was drafted, a meeting was scheduled for its signing. But on said date, Myrna failed to appear as she did not have enough money to travel from the province down south up to the city. So, only Linda and her other siblings proceeded to sign the compromise agreement and submitted the same for approval by the RTC. So, the RTC rendered a decision approving the compromise agreement.

Feeling aggrieved, Myrna appealed the RTC decision before the Court of Appeals (CA), alleging that the compromise agreement cannot be binding on her considering that she did not sign it or consented to its execution. But the CA still affirmed the RTC decision.

When her motion for reconsideration was still denied by the CA, Myrna filed a Petition for Review before the Supreme Court (SC) against Linda, questioning the CA decision approving the compromise agreement.

But the SC still affirmed the CA and RTC decisions. According to the SC, the fact that Myrna failed to sign the written document bearing the terms of the agreement of the heirs is of no moment. An oral partition may be valid and binding upon the heirs as there is no law requiring the partition among the heirs to be in writing in order to be valid. The partition among the heirs or renunciation of an inheritance by some of them is not exactly a conveyance of real property because it does not involve transfer of property from one to the other, but rather a confirmation or ratification of title or right to the property by an heir renouncing in favor of another heir, his/her share in the inheritance. An oral partition is not covered by the Statute of Fraud.

Inspite of the Statute of Fraud, courts of equity can enforce oral partition when it has been completely or partially performed. In this case, Myrna has not refuted Linda’s assertion that the terms of the compromise agreement have already been partially performed by the parties. Therefore, even if the document entitled “Compromise Agreement” was not signed by Myrna, there was already an oral partition entered into by the parties that is binding on all the siblings. The written agreement is only for the convenience of the parties in determining its terms. Hence the CA decision is affirmed (Fajardo vs. Cua-Malate, G.R. 213666, March 27, 2019).

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