G.R. No. 72706, 27 October 1987, 155 SCRA 100
Constantino Acain filed on the Regional Trial Court a petition for the probate of the will of his late Uncle, Nemesio Acain, on the premise that the latter died leaving a will in which the former and his brothers and sisters were instituted as heirs. After the petition was set for hearing in the lower court, Virginia Fernandez and Rosa Diongson, a legally adopted daughter and the widow of the deceased respectively, filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that: (1) Constantino Acain has no legal capacity to institute the proceedings; (2) he is merely a universal heir; and (3) the widow and the adopted daughter have been pretirited. Said motion was denied as well as the subsequent motion for reconsideration. Consequently, Fernandez and Diongson filed with the Supreme Court a petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction which was subsequently referred to the Intermediate Appellate Court. IAC granted Fernandez and Diongson’s petition and ordered the trial court to dismiss the petition for probate of the will. Due to the denial of Acain’s motion for reconsideration, he then filed a petition for review on certiorari before the Supreme Court.
Whether or not Virginia Fernandez and Rosa Diongson have been preterited.
Article 854 of the Civil Code:
The preterition or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of heir; but the devisees and legacies shall be valid insofar as they are not inofficious.
If the omitted compulsory heirs should die before the testator, the institution shall be effectual, without prejudice to the right of representation.
Preterition consists in the omission in the testator’s will of the forced heirs or anyone of them either because they are not mentioned therein, or though mentioned, they are neither instituted as heirs nor are expressly disinherited. Insofar as the widow is concerned, Article 854 may not apply as she does not ascend or descend from the testator, although she is a compulsory heir. However, the same thing cannot be said of the legally adopted daughter. Under Article 39 of P.D. No. 603, known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code, adoption gives to the adopted person the same rights and duties as if he were a legitimate child of the adopter and makes the adopted person a legal heir of the adopter. It cannot be denied that she was totally omitted and preterited in the will and that both the adopted child and the widow were deprived of at least their legitime. Neither can it be denied that they were not expressly disinherited. Hence, this is a clear case of preterition of the legally adopted child.
The universal institution of Acain together with his brothers and sisters to the entire inheritance of the testator results in totally abrogating the will because the nullification of such institution of universal heirs without any other testamentary disposition in the will amounts to a declaration that nothing at all was written.
*Case digest by Em Epsan Batoon, LLB-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019