Union Bank v. Santibañez

G.R. No. 149926, 23 February 2005, 452 SCRA 228

FACTS:

On May 31, 1980, the First Countryside Credit Corporation (FCCC) and Efraim Santibañez entered into a loan agreement in the amount of P128,000.00. The amount was intended for the payment of one (1) unit Ford 6600 Agricultural Tractor. In view thereof, Efraim and his son, Edmund, executed a promissory note in favor of the FCCC, the principal sum payable in five equal annual amortizations. On Dec. 1980, FCCC and Efraim entered into another loan agreement for the payment of another unit of Ford 6600 and one unit of a Rotamotor. Again, Efraim and Edmund executed a promissory note and a Continuing Guaranty Agreement for the later loan. In 1981, Efraim died, leaving a holographic will. Testate proceedings commenced before the RTC of Iloilo City. Edmund was appointed as the special administrator of the estate. During the pendency of the testate proceedings, the surviving heirs, Edmund and his sister Florence, executed a Joint Agreement, wherein they agreed to divide between themselves and take possession of the three (3) tractors: (2) tractors for Edmund and (1) for Florence. Each of them was to assume the indebtedness of their late father to FCCC, corresponding to the tractor respectively taken by them. In the meantime, a Deed of Assignment with Assumption of Liabilities was executed by and between FCCC and Union Bank, wherein the FCCC assigned all its assets and liabilities to Union Bank.

Demand letters were sent by Union Bank to Edmund, but the latter refused to pay. Thus, on February 5, 1988, Union Bank filed a Complaint for sum of money against the heirs of Efraim Santibañez, Edmund and Florence, before the RTC of Makati City. Summonses were issued against both, but the one intended for Edmund was not served since he was in the United States and there was no information on his address or the date of his return to the Philippines. Florence filed her Answer and alleged that the loan documents did not bind her since she was not a party thereto. Considering that the joint agreement signed by her and her brother Edmund was not approved by the probate court, it was null and void; hence, she was not liable to Union Bank under the joint agreement.

Union Bank asserts that the obligation of the deceased had passed to his legitimate heirs (Edmund and Florence) as provided in Article 774 of the Civil Code; and that the unconditional signing of the joint agreement estopped Florence, and that she cannot deny her liability under the said document.

In her comment to the petition, Florence maintains that Union Bank is trying to recover a sum of money from the deceased Efraim Santibañez; thus the claim should have been filed with the probate court. She points out that at the time of the execution of the joint agreement there was already an existing probate proceedings. She asserts that even if the agreement was voluntarily executed by her and her brother Edmund, it should still have been subjected to the approval of the court as it may prejudice the estate, the heirs or third parties.

ISSUE:

Within the claim of Union Bank should have been filed with the probate court before which the testate estate of the late Efraim Santibañez was pending. W/N the agreement between Edmund and Florence (which was in effect, a partition of hte estate) was void considering that it had not been approved by the probate court. Within there can be a valid partition among the heirs before the will is probated.

HELD:

Well-settled is the rule that a probate court has the jurisdiction to determine all the properties of the deceased, to determine whether they should or should not be included in the inventory or list of properties to be administered. The said court is primarily concerned with the administration, liquidation and distribution of the estate.

In our jurisdiction, the rule is that there can be no valid partition among the heirs until after the will has been probated. In the present case, Efraim left a holographic will which contained the provision which reads as follows:
In our jurisdiction, the rule is that there can be no valid partition among the heirs until after the will has been probated. In the present case, Efraim left a holographic will which contained the provision which reads as follows:
o (e) All other properties, real or personal, which I own and may be discovered later after my demise, shall be distributed in the proportion indicated in the immediately preceding paragraph in favor of Edmund and Florence, my children.

The above-quoted is an all-encompassing provision embracing all the properties left by the decedent which might have escaped his mind at that time he was making his will, and other properties he may acquire thereafter. Included therein are the three (3) subject tractors. This being so, any partition involving the said tractors among the heirs is not valid. The joint agreement executed by Edmund and Florence, partitioning the tractors among themselves, is invalid, specially so since at the time of its execution, there was already a pending proceeding for the probate of their late father’s holographic will covering the said tractors.

The Court notes that the loan was contracted by the decedent. The bank, purportedly a creditor of the late Efraim Santibañez, should have thus filed its money claim with the probate court in accordance with Section 5, Rule 86 of the Revised Rules of Court.

The filing of a money claim against the decedent’s estate in the probate court is mandatory. This requirement is for the purpose of protecting the estate of the deceased by informing the executor or administrator of the claims against it, thus enabling him to examine each claim and to determine whether it is a proper one which should be allowed. The plain and obvious design of the rule is the speedy settlement of the affairs of the deceased and the early delivery of the property to the distributees, legatees, or heirs.

Perusing the records of the case, nothing therein could hold Florence accountable for any liability incurred by her late father. The documentary evidence presented, particularly the promissory notes and the continuing guaranty agreement, were executed and signed only by the late Efraim Santibañez and his son Edmund. As the petitioner failed to file its money claim with the probate court, at most, it may only go after Edmund as co-maker of the decedent under the said promissory notes and continuing guaranty.

*Case digest by Perigrino Varquez, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio College Law School, SY 2018-2019

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