Question: My father passed away years ago. Without a will, he left a few properties that are still in his name up to now. He only had two legitimate children, myself included.
My mother was a widow when she married my father. She had four children by her previous marriage, two of whom are surviving. They’ve always carried their biological father’s surname.
When my mother died, my father had a common-law partner who is still alive and with whom he had two children, both surviving.
One of the properties left by my father, a house and lot, has been occupied by one of his stepchildren since his death. Taxes for the property have also been paid by the same. Lately, this stepchild has been very sickly, and the other surviving stepchild has expressed intention to occupy the property when the former eventually succumbs to illness.
Two questions: First, what rights do legitimate, illegitimate and stepchildren have in terms of property inheritance and; second, does my deceased father’s surviving common-law wife have rights to his properties as well?
Answer: The information you provided in the question is not sufficient enough and it would be helpful if it had more details to work around with. For example, what was your father’s citizenship and legal residence when he died? You also did not indicate whether or not he acquired his properties after or before he married your mother, or within his first marriage or his subsequent civil union.
As per Art.1039 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, the citizenship and residence status of your father determines how his properties will be divided among his heirs. For the purpose of discussion, let us assume that:
a) your father was a Filipino citizen when he died;
b) he acquired his properties before he married your mother; and
c) your mother’s second marriage was legal.
In answer to your questions:
As legitimate children, you and your siblings will inherit the properties of both your mother and your father. Your father’s stepchildren will only inherit the estate of your father, and his illegitimate children with his common-law partner will be entitled to half of your and your sibling’s share, being the legitimate children.
For example, if you and your sibling inherit Php1,000 each, your half-brothers and half-sisters from your father’s common-law union will get Php 500 each, or 25% of the estate as per Art. 176 of the amended Family Code.
Your father’s common-law wife will not inherit anything from him.
If the house and lot presently occupied by one of your father’s stepchildren is indeed not conjugal, your father’s stepchildren cannot inherit the property. However, the stepchild who has been paying taxes for the property has the right to demand reimbursement.
However, if your father was never married to anyone else, it can be said that the said house and lot was acquired during his marriage to your mother and is thus conjugal. Even then, your step siblings can inherit only your mother’s estate.
According to the law, any couple’s conjugal properties are deemed liquidated upon a spouse’ death, where half of the properties will be left with the surviving spouse, and the other half will be divided among all surviving and legally recognized heirs.
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