Insular Life v. Ebrado

G.R. No. L-44059, 28 October 1977, 80 SCRA 181


Cristor Ebrado was issued by The Life Assurance Co., Ltd., a policy for P5,882.00 with a rider for Accidental Death. He designated Carponia T. Ebrado as the revocable beneficiary in his policy. He referred to her as his wife.

Cristor was killed when he was hit by a failing branch of a tree. Insular Life was made liable to pay the coverage in the total amount of P11,745.73, representing the face value of the policy in the amount of P5,882.00 plus the additional benefits for accidental death.

Carponia T. Ebrado filed with the insurer a claim for the proceeds as the designated beneficiary therein, although she admitted that she and the insured were merely living as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage.

Pascuala Vda. de Ebrado also filed her claim as the widow of the deceased insured. She asserts that she is the one entitled to the insurance proceeds.

Insular commenced an action for Interpleader before the trial court as to who should be given the proceeds. The court declared Carponia as disqualified.


Whether or not a common-law wife named as beneficiary in the life insurance policy of a legally married man can claim the proceeds in case of death of the latter.



Section 50 of the Insurance Act which provides that “the insurance shall be applied exclusively to the proper interest of the person in whose name it is made”

The word “interest” highly suggests that the provision refers only to the “insured” and not to the beneficiary, since a contract of insurance is personal in character. Otherwise, the prohibitory laws against illicit relationships especially on property and descent will be rendered nugatory, as the same could easily be circumvented by modes of insurance.
When not otherwise specifically provided for by the Insurance Law, the contract of life insurance is governed by the general rules of the civil law regulating contracts. And under Article 2012 of the same Code, any person who is forbidden from receiving any donation under Article 739 cannot be named beneficiary of a life insurance policy by the person who cannot make a donation to him. Common-law spouses are barred from receiving donations from each other.

Article 739 provides that void donations are those made between persons who were guilty of adultery or concubinage at the time of donation.

There is every reason to hold that the bar in donations between legitimate spouses and those between illegitimate ones should be enforced in life insurance policies since the same are based on similar consideration. So long as marriage remains the threshold of family laws, reason and morality dictate that the impediments imposed upon married couple should likewise be imposed upon extra-marital relationship.

A conviction for adultery or concubinage isn’t required exacted before the disabilities mentioned in Article 739 may effectuate. The article says that in the case referred to in No. 1, the action for declaration of nullity may be brought by the spouse of the donor or donee; and the guilty of the donee may be proved by preponderance of evidence in the same action.
The underscored clause neatly conveys that no criminal conviction for the offense is a condition precedent. The law plainly states that the guilt of the party may be proved “in the same acting for declaration of nullity of donation.” And, it would be sufficient if evidence preponderates.

*Case digests by Terence Eyre B. Belangoy, LLB-4 (Refresher), Andres Bonifacio College School of Law, SY 2018-2019

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