This article talks about the process of disinheriting heirs in the testator’s last will and testament as well as the grounds or causes for disinheritance of children, descendants, parents, ascendants and spouses.
Testator May Disinherit Erring Heirs
They say that too much of anything is not good. This adage applies with great weight to people who have too much money and property such that their heirs hover around them like vultures, waiting for the time when they can claim their inheritance. It would have been nice if these heirs were good to the testator. However, not all heirs are created equal. There are some who have maltreated the testator and are surely not deserving of any inheritance. What is the remedy of the hapless rich man? Disinheriting the heir may provide a solution.
What are Required to Disinherit an Heir
Disinheritance is a testamentary disposition depriving any compulsory heir of his share in the legitime for a cause authorized by law [Nuguid vs. Nuguid, G.R. No. L-23445, 23 June 1966]. In order for there to be a valid disinheritance, the following must be present [culled from Ruben F. Balane, Jottings and Jurisprudence in Civil Law (Succession) (2016 ed) p. 438-439]:
1. it must be made in a will (Article 916);
2. it must be for a cause specified by law (Article 916 in relation to Articles 919-921);
3. the will must specify the cause (Articles 916 and 918);
4. it must be unconditional;
5. it must be total;
6. the cause must be true (Article 918);
7. if the truth of the cause is denied, it must be proved by the proponent (Article 917).
Failure to observe the requisites above will result in an ineffective disinheritance. Pursuant to Article 918 of the Civil Code, such ineffective disinheritance shall annul the institution of heirs insofar as it may prejudice the person disinherited but the devises and legacies and other testamentary dispositions shall be valid to such extent as will not impair the legitime.
Grounds for Disinheriting Heirs
As mentioned above, the disinheritance must be for a cause specified by law. Articles 919, 920, and 921 of the Civil Code provide the said ground.
Based on Article 919 of the Civil Code, the following are sufficient causes for the disinheritance of legitimate or illegitimate children and descendants:
(1) When a child or descendant has been found guilty of an attempt against the life of the testator, his or her spouse, descendants, or ascendants;
(2) When a child or descendant has accused the testator of a crime for which the law prescribes imprisonment for six years or more, if the accusation has been found groundless;
(3) When a child or descendant has been convicted of adultery or concubinage with the spouse of the testator;
(4) When a child or descendant by fraud, violence, intimidation, or undue influence causes the testator to make a will or to change one already made;
(5) A refusal without justifiable cause to support the parent or ascendant who disinherits such child or descendant;
(6) Maltreatment of the testator by word or deed, by the child or descendant;
(7) When a child or descendant leads a dishonorable or disgraceful life;
(8) Conviction of a crime which carries with it the penalty of civil interdiction.
Anent legitimate or illegitimate parents and ascendants, the following are considered as grounds for disinheriting them under Article 920 of the Civil Code:
(1) When the parents have abandoned their children or induced their daughters to live a corrupt or immoral life, or attempted against their virtue;
(2) When the parent or ascendant has been convicted of an attempt against the life of the testator, his or her spouse, descendants, or ascendants;
(3) When the parent or ascendant has accused the testator of a crime for which the law prescribes imprisonment for six years or more, if the accusation has been found to be false;
(4) When the parent or ascendant has been convicted of adultery or concubinage with the spouse of the testator;
(5) When the parent or ascendant by fraud, violence, intimidation, or undue influence causes the testator to make a will or to change one already made;
(6) The loss of parental authority for causes specified in this Code;
(7) The refusal to support the children or descendants without justifiable cause;
(8) An attempt by one of the parents against the life of the other, unless there has been a reconciliation between them.
Finally, the surviving spouse may be disinherited for the following causes as enunciated by Article 921 of the Civil Code:
(1) When the spouse has been convicted of an attempt against the life of the testator, his or her descendants, or ascendants;
(2) When the spouse has accused the testator of a crime for which the law prescribes imprisonment of six years or more, and the accusation has been found to be false;
(3) When the spouse by fraud, violence, intimidation, or undue influence cause the testator to make a will or to change one already made;
(4) When the spouse has given cause for legal separation;
(5) When the spouse has given grounds for the loss of parental authority;
(6) Unjustifiable refusal to support the children or the other spouse.
Thus, compulsory heirs should not be too confident that they will receive any inheritance if they have committed any of the acts stated above. They run the risk of being disinherited by the testator. However, even if they have committed infractions, all is not lost. If the testator decided to forgive these erring heirs or reconciles with them, the disinheritance becomes ineffectual. Such disinherited heir will then be restored to his legitime.
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