Civil Law, Special Proceedings

FULE vs. CA G.R. No. L-40502 November 29, 1976 Succession, Appointment of Special Administrator, Residence

 

FACTS:

 

Virginia G. Fule filed a petition for letters of administration, alleging Amado G. Garcia died intestate, leaving real estate and personal properties. She moved ex parte for her appointment as special administratrix over the estate. Judge Malvar granted the motion.

Preciosa B. Garcia filed an MR contending that the order appointing Virginia G. Fule as special administratrix was issued without jurisdiction, since no notice of the petition for letters of administration has been served upon all persons interested, and as the surviving spouse of Amado, she should be preferred in the appointment of a special administratrix in lieu of Fule, and as regular administratrix after due hearing, alleging that Fule is a debtor of the estate of Amado and thus has adverse interest against the estate and that she has shown herself unsuitable as administratrix and as officer of the court.

Judge Malvar denied the MR.

Preciosa moved for reconsideration insofar as they sustained or failed to rule on the issues raised by her: (a) legal standing (cause of action) of Virginia G. Fule; (b) venue; (c) jurisdiction; (d) appointment, qualification and removal of special administratrix; and (e) delivery to the special administratrix of checks and papers and effects in the office of the Calamba Sugar Planters Cooperative Marketing Association, Inc.

During the hearing, Preciosa presented the residence certificate of the decedent for 1973 showing that three months before his death his residence was in Quezon City. Fule testified that Amado was residing in Calamba, Laguna at the time of his death.

The CA rendered judgment annulling the proceedings before Judge Malvar for lack of jurisdiction.

Denied of their motion for reconsideration Fule elevated the matter  on appeal by certiorari to the SC.

Before Fule could receive the decision of the CA, Preciosa had already filed a petition for letters of administration before the CFI of Quezon City, with a motion for her appointment as special administratrix of the estate. Judge Ericta granted the motion and appointed Preciosa as special administratrix.

 

ISSUES:

  1. What the word “resides” in Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules Of Court, referring to the situs of the settlement of the estate of deceased persons, means.
  2. Who should be appointed as special administratrix of the subject estate?

 

RULING:

 

1.

Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court provides: “If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the CFI of any province in which he had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent, shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record.”

 

We lay down the doctrinal rule that the term “resides” connotes ex vi termini “actual residence” as distinguished from “legal residence or domicile.” This term “resides,” like, the terms “residing” and “residence,” is elastic and should be interpreted in the light of the object or purpose of the statute or rule in which it is employed. In the application of venue statutes and rules — Section 1, Rule 73 of the Revised Rules of Court is of such nature — residence rather than domicile is the significant factor. Even where the statute uses the word “domicile” still it is construed as meaning residence and not domicile in the technical sense.

 

The term means merely residence, that is, personal residence, not legal residence or domicile. Residence simply requires bodily presence as an inhabitant in a given place, while domicile requires bodily presence in that place and also an intention to make it one’s domicile. No particular length of time of residence is required though; however, the residence must be more than temporary.

 

On this issue, We rule that the last place of residence of the deceased Amado G. Garcia was at 11 Carmel Avenue, Carmel Subdivision, Quezon City, and not at Calamba, Laguna. A death certificate is admissible to prove the residence of the decedent at the time of his death. As it is, the death certificate of Amado G. Garcia, which was presented in evidence by Virginia G. Fule herself and also by Preciosa B. Garcia, shows that his last place of residence was at 11 Carmel Avenue, Carmel Subdivision, Quezon City. Aside from this, the deceased’s residence certificate for 1973 obtained three months before his death; and certificates of titles covering parcels of land in Calamba, Laguna, show in bold documents that Amado G. Garcia’s last place of residence was at Quezon City. Withal, the conclusion becomes imperative that the venue for Fule’s petition for letters of administration was improperly laid in the CFI of Calamba, Laguna. Nevertheless, the long-settled rule is that objection to improper venue is subject to waiver. Section 4, Rule 4 of the Revised Rules of Court states: “When improper venue is not objected to in a motion to dismiss, it is deemed waived.”

 

Preciosa did not necessarily waive her objection to the jurisdiction or venue assumed by the CFI of Calamba, Laguna, but availed of a mere practical resort to alternative remedy to assert her rights as surviving spouse, while insisting on the enforcement of the Rule fixing the proper venue of the proceedings at the last residence of the decedent.

 

2.

 

Preciosa B. Garcia’s challenge to Virginia G. Fule’s appointment as special administratrix is another issue of perplexity. Preciosa claims preference to the appointment as surviving spouse. Section 1 of Rule 80 provides that “(w)hen there is delay in granting letters testamentary or of administration by any cause including an appeal from the allowance or disallowance of a will, the court may appoint a special administrator to take possession and charge of the estate of the deceased until the questions causing the delay are decided and executors or administrators appointed.

 

Nevertheless, the discretion to appoint a special administrator or not lies in the probate court.

 

Under the law, the widow would have the right of succession over a portion of the exclusive property of the decedent, besides her share in the conjugal partnership. For such reason, she would have as such, if not more, interest in administering the entire estate correctly than any other next of kin.

 

On this point, We rule that Preciosa B. Garcia is prima facie entitled to the appointment of special administratrix.

 

The preference of Preciosa B. Garcia is with sufficient reason. In a Donation Inter Vivos executed by the deceased Amado G. Garcia on January 8, 1973 in favor of Agustina B. Garcia, he indicated therein that he is married to Preciosa B. Garcia.

 

Preciosa B. Garcia can be reasonably believed to be the surviving spouse of the late Amado G. Garcia. Semper praesumitur pro matrimonio.

 

The petitions of petitioner Virginia Garcia Fule were denied.

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

Sec. 2. Powers and duties of special administrator. — Such special administrator shall take possession and charge of the goods, chattels, rights, credits, and estate of the deceased and preserve the same for the executor or administrator afterwards appointed, and for that purpose may commence and maintain suits as administrator. He may sell only such perishable and other property as the court orders sold. A special administrator shall not be liable to pay any debts of the deceased unless so ordered by the court.

 

A special administrator is a representative of decedent, appointed by the probate court to care for and preserve his estate until an executor or general administrator is appointed. (Jones v. Minnesota Transfer R. Co.)

 

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