A Co-Heir may Institute an Action Prior to Full Settlement of Estate and Without Impleading the Other Co-Heirs

Socorro T. Clemente, as substituted by Salvador T. Clemente, petitioner, v. Republic of the Philippines (Department of Public Works and Highways, Region IV-A), respondent; G.R. No. 220008

In the case of Socorro T. Clemente v. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 220008, the Supreme Court addressed the issue whether a co-heir may institute an action for revocation of donation and reconveyance of property even before the estate is fully settled ad without impleading the othe rco-heirs.

The Supreme Court resolved the issue favorably. The Supreme Court declared that “it has been settled that a co-heir or co-owner may bring suit without impleading all the other co-owners if the suit is for the benefit of all.”

The Supreme Court proceeded, thus:

In this case, it is not disputed that Socorro is an heir of one of the donors. Moreover, her prayer in her action was to revoke the Deed of Donation and to cancel the TCT issued in the name of the Province of Quezon, and to issue a new certificate in the names of the heirs of the Clemente Siblings, pro-indiviso, and to direct the Republic to surrender or reconvey possession over the property to the heirs of the Clemente Siblings. It is clear, therefore, that Socorro acknowledges and continues to recognize her co-heirs as co-owners of the Subject Property. Further, based on the Complaint and Amended Complaint of Socorro, it is clear that the suit was intended for the benefit of all the co-heirs of the Clemente Siblings. Thus, there is no need to implead the other co-heirs for the action to proceed as it is for the benefit of the co-ownership.

Moreover, there is no need for the settlement of the estate before one of the heirs can institute an action on behalf of the other co-heirs. Although an heir’s right in the estate of the decedent which has not been fully settled and partitioned is merely inchoate, Article 493 of the Civil Code gives the heir the right to exercise acts of ownership. Thus, even before the settlement of the estate, an heir may file an action for reconveyance of possession as a co-owner thereof, provided that such heir recognizes and acknowledges the other co-heirs as co-owners of the property as it will be assumed that the heir is acting on behalf of all the co-heirs for the benefit of the co-ownership.