Succession; definition, elements

Article 774. Succession is a mode of acquisition by virtue of which the property, rights and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance, of a person are transmitted through his death to another or others either by his will or by operation of law. (New Civil Code of the Philippines)

The following are elements of succession according to Paras (2008):

[a] Mode of acquisition (of acquiring ownership)
[b] Transfer of property, rights, and obligations to the extent of the value of the inheritance of a person (called grantor or transferor, decedent, testator, or intestate). The word "testator" applies only if the decedent has left a will.
[c] Transmission through death (not during life). The law on succession does not apply without death, either actual or presumptive. The best proof of death in court is a person's death certificate.
[d] Transmission to another (called grantee, or transferee, heir, legatee, or devisee). Another or others will acquire the inheritance either by operation of law (intestate) or by virtue of a will (testate).
[e] By will or by operation of law (testamentary or legal succession).


Under Article 712 of the Civil Code, the modes of acquiring ownership are generally classified into two (2) classes, namely, the original mode (i.e., through occupation, acquisitive prescription, law or intellectual creation) and the derivative mode (i.e., through succession mortis causa or tradition as a result of certain contracts, such as sale, barter, donation, assignment or mutuum). (G.R. No. 118114)

Under the New Civil Code, the modes of acquiring ownership are as follows: (a) occupation; (b) intellectual creation; (c) donation; (d) succession; and (e) prescription. Estoppel is not one of them x x x. The recognition by the defendants-appellants of the plaintiff-appellee as co-owner of the subject parcel of land in the "Salaysay ng Pag-aari ng Iba’t Ibang Lupa" was based on the mistaken belief that the said land was a conjugal property of Francisco Caldo and Juana Manaresa. To rule otherwise, will not only cause injustice to the vested right of the defendants-appellants but also will run counter to the provisions of the law and applicable jurisprudence. In accordance with the settled rule, an innocent mistake on the part of the defendants-appellants as to the legal right does not estop them to assert the same. (G.R. No. 164453)

The law provides the different modes of acquiring ownership, namely: (a) occupation; (b) intellectual creation; (c) law; (d) donation; (e) succession; (f) tradition, as a consequence of certain contracts; and (g) prescription. It will be noted that accession is not one of those listed therein. It is therefore safe to conclude that accession is not a mode of acquiring ownership. The reason is simple: accession presupposes a previously existing ownership by the owner over the principal. This is not necessarily so in the other modes of acquiring ownership. Therefore, fundamentally and in the last analysis, accession is a right implicitly included in ownership, without which it will have no basis or existence. (p. 179, Paras, Vol. II, Thirteenth Edition (1994), Civil Code). In general, the right to accession is automatic (ipso jure), requiring no prior act on the part of the owner of the principal. (G.R. No. 149418, citing Villanueva v. Claustro, 23 Phil. 54)


But even if We are to assume arguendo that the oral partition executed in 1936 was not valid for some reason or another, We would still arrive at the same conclusion for upon the death of Gavino Reyes in 1921, his heirs automatically became co-owners of his 70-hectare parcel of land. The rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of death of the decedent. The estate of the decedent would then be held in co-ownership by the heirs. The co-heir or co-owner may validly dispose of his share or interest in the property subject to the condition that the portion disposed of is eventually allotted to him in the division upon termination of the co-ownership. Article 493 of the Civil Code provides: Each co-owner shall have the full ownership of his part and the fruits and benefits pertaining thereto, and he may even substitute another person in its enjoyment, except when personal rights are involved. But the effect of the alienation or the mortgage, with respect to the co-owners, shall be limited to the portion which may be allotted to him in the division upon the termination of the co-ownership.

Barcelona, et al. vs. Barcelona, et al., supra, provides the reason why oral partition is valid and why it is not covered by the Statute of Frauds: partition among heirs or renunciation of an inheritance by some of them is not exactly a conveyance of real property for the reason that it does not involve transfer of property from one to the other, but rather a confirmation or ratification of title or right of property by the heir renouncing in favor of another heir accepting and receiving the inheritance. (G.R. No. 92436. July 26, 1991)

The principle of transmission as of the time of the predecessor's death is basic in our Civil Code, and is supported by other related articles. Thus, the capacity of the heir is determined as of the time the decedent died (Art. 1034); the legitime is to be computed as of the same moment(Art. 908), and so is the in officiousness of the donation inter vivos (Art. 771). Similarly, the legacies of credit and remission are valid only in the amount due and outstanding at the death of the testator (Art. 935),and the fruits accruing after that instant are deemed to pertain to the legatee (Art. 948). (G.R. No. L-15499. February 28, 1962)

Article 777 of the Civil Code provides "that the rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of the death of the decedent." From the moment of the death of the decedent, the heirs become the absolute owners of his property, subject to the rights and obligations of the decedent, and they cannot be deprived of their rights thereto except by the methods provided for by law. The moment of death is the determining factor when the heirs acquire a definite right to the inheritance whether such right be pure or contingent. The right of the heirs to the property of the deceased vests in them even before judicial declaration of their being heirs in the testate or intestate proceedings. When [plaintiff], therefore, died[,] her claim or right to the parcels of land x x x was not extinguished by her death but was transmitted to her heirs upon her death. Her heirs have thus acquired interest in the properties in litigation and became parties in interest in the case. There is, therefore, no reason for the respondent Court not to allow their substitution as parties in interest for the deceased plaintiff. (G.R. No. 173292. September 1, 2010)


The legatee or devisee acquires a right to the pure and simple legacies or devisees from the death of the testator, and transmits it to his heirs. (G.R. No. L-15499. February 28, 1962)

The Report of the Code Commission explains the rule, to wit: The decisive fact which gives origin to the right of the heirs, devisees and legatees is the death of the decedent. This is the basis of the foregoing rule. No heir, devisee or legatee has any vested right until the moment of such death (Civil Code, Padilla, Volume VII, 1975, p. 712).


Petitioners-sellers in the case at bar being the sons and daughters of the decedent Constancio P. Coronel are compulsory heirs who were called to succession by operation of law. Thus, at the point their father drew his last breath, petitioners stepped into his shoes insofar as the subject property is concerned, such that any rights or obligations pertaining thereto became binding and enforceable upon them. It is expressly provided that rights to the succession are transmitted from the moment of death of the decedent. (Article 777, Civil Code; Cuison vs. Villanueva, 90 Phil. 850 [1952], cited by G.R. No. 103577. October 7, 1996)

SOURCE: Justice Edgardo L. Paras (2008). The Civil Code of the Philippines Annotated. Volume III on Wills and Succession. 978-971-23-6268-2.