CASE DIGEST: Medina vs. CA

G.R. No. 137582 : August 29, 2012




A decision was rendered against Arles Castares (Arles), now deceased and represented by his heirs, to pay damages for running over and causing injuries to four-year old Wenceslao Mahilum, Jr. Petitioner Jose Medina (Medina) was the representative of the victim in the said case. To satisfy the judgment, the sheriff levied Arles two parcels of land covered by Tax Declaration No. 1107 and Tax Declaration No. 1106.

When the heirs of Arles failed to settle their obligation, the lot covered by Tax Declaration No. 1107 was sold at public auction wherein Medina emerged as the highest bidder. Medina applied for the registration of the said lot. However, Andres Castares (Andres), brother of Arles and representing the heirs of the late Abundio Castares (Abundio), filed an opposition thereto. Andres claimed that after the death of his father Abundio, Tax Declaration No. 1107 was cancelled and consequently, a tax declaration was issued in his favor. He insisted that he is the rightful owner of the said portion of the land.

The RTC ruled in favor of Medina. On appeal, the CA reversed the RTC and it also noted that there has been no settlement yet of the estate of Abundio and it was premature for Arles to have allocated unto himself a distinct portion of the lot as his share in the estate.

ISSUE: Whether or not Abundios heirs have an actual right over the lot in dispute?

HELD: The petition is denied.

CIVIL LAW: heirs right of ownership over the properties of the decedent; tax declaration not sufficient proof of ownership

The appellate court is correct in stating that there was no settlement of the estate of Abundio.There is no showing that Lot 224 has already been partitioned despite the demise of Abundio. It has been held that an heirs right of ownership over the properties of the decedent is merely inchoate as long as the estate has not been fully settled and partitioned. This means that the impending heir has yet no absolute dominion over any specific property in the decedents estate that could be specifically levied upon and sold at public auction. Any encumbrance of attachment over the heirs interests in the estate, therefore, remains a mere probability, and cannot summarily be satisfied without the final distribution of the properties in the estate. Therefore, the public auction sale of the property covered by Tax Declaration No. 1107 is void because the subject property is still covered by the Estate of Abundio, which up to now, remains unpartitioned. Arles was not proven to be the owner of the lot under Tax Declaration No. 1107. It may not be amiss to state that a tax declaration by itself is not sufficient to prove ownership.

Petition is DENIED. The CA is AFFIRMED.