From time to time I receive comments here which seem to indicate people have a lot more faith in my knowledge or judgment than anyone should have. I don’t want complex or extensive comments and questions to go unanswered … these are very real issues to people … but I am only a common (lay) person with no legal education or standing. Please keep that in mind as you read anything on this site. I offer my private opinions only, and those opinions may indeed be wrong. OK, are you sure you read what I just said?
Here’s a very interesting and complex set of circumstances that have been presented via a comment here on PhiFAQS about a very frequent issue that seems to crop up … inheritance of land by foreigners in the Philippines.
Let me make one general observation before we continue here … I’ve been doing research and attempting to help folks on issues like this for many years and there is a frequent thread that almost always shows through. I mention it here not to criticize the reader who sent in the question but to serve as a reminder of the true “facts of life.”
If you have a parent or other relative that you feel you may be in line to inherit from, and that relative moves to the Philippines, you might want to discuss their plans for their estate before rather than after their demise. (Actually, I’ve been told there’s a way to discuss it with them after their demise, but I’m not so sure about that ;-))
Reconstructing their true intentions and the legal basis (if any) for the distribution of their estate after they have passed on becomes a very “iffy” area. In many cases, even including this query, I don’t really know all the answers, but more importantly, I don’t know much about the questions.
I strongly urge that if you are in the position this reader was before the father passed away, by all means discuss what’s going on in your own consanguineous (blood) family.
It’s easy for an outsider to cast aspersions on these sort of discussions … children urging their parents to die quick so they can get the money … siblings arguing with siblings over property rights, and so on.
The reality of it all is, better to get these issues settled in advance for all concerned. And, as almost any legal advisor will be happy to tell you, the best way to avoid these sorts of unsatisfactory ‘after death experiences’ is to have a will.
A will is cheap enough to have written up with competent professional guidance. In cases like the one we are going to explore, I’d say, have a lawyer in the Philippines draw up the father’s intentions … advising on the best way to make those intentions coincide with Philippine law, and then before the will is finalized, consult with a UK (or wherever your home country is) solicitor. If there are differences/points that conflict with host country law, etc., this would be the time to settle.
Costs money to get good legal advice? Yep. Costs a lot more to straighten out complex situations after the fact? Oh yes, many times more … so pay upfront or pay much more later is Dave’s opinion.
OK, on to the story:
…. My father a British National married a Filipino lady many years ago, whilst (she was?) married to my father he retired early, with his lump sum from his pay off he built a second home in the Philippines she owned the land and I believe my dad had his name on the title (up to 40%) …
OK, this is the first part I am a little “at sea” about. I’m a little confused about the 40% reference. Was your dad acting as a private person, or did he take part in a corporation here in the Philippines wich owned the property?
There are two common ways a foreigner holds interest in property here. Typically, the Filipino wife and the foreigner husband buy a piece of property together and the owner designation on the title looks like this:
Maria dela Cruz (Filipina)
John T. Bull (Foreigner)
If you read the article which you made this comment on … “I Heard a Foreigner Can Inherit Land in the Philippines” … you will see that this standard for actually gives the foreigner about a 1/8th share in the property. (be sure to read the other comments to this article, some good points are made there)
But a point I see being missed all the time is, this interest only comes into play if the Filipino spouse dies. It is not some undivided interest that the foreigner “owns” like a share of stock that he can sell or transfer or pass on to his children.
The “40%” reference gives me the notion there might be a corporation involved. A corporation can own land in the Philippines if it is composed of no more than 40% foreign ownership. A great many property transactions occur involving foreign land buyers … many real estate agents are quite happy to set up corporations for the purpose of foreign property ownership. But I don’t see any other evidence of this in your case. You might want to check into this aspect, though, if you choose to pursue the issue.
… once they were married for over 10 years she gained her British citizenship then she left him and moved some where else in the UK (she still lives in the UK) mean while her children from her previous marriage in the Philippines moved into my dads house (without permission) …
I bring this sort of situation up again and again. Many fellow foreigners, though, just don’t choose to listen.
Absentee ownership of a home in the Philippines is fraught with peril. In this case, the wife’s children possibly even had some claim to possession … divorce between parents does not divorce the parents from the children … and even if they have no legal claim whatsoever, very little can be done.
Foreigners run into this situation day after day where uninvited relatives just ‘fall out of the sky’ and move in. In Western culture we a have very strong sense of ‘ownership’. In the Philippines the culture is very different. The children needed a place to live, the house was there with space for them, so they moved in.
To most Filipinos there isn’t much impropriety here at all … I mean, your dad and his wife weren’t using the house, were they? And even if they were, a mother would let her children sleep in the streets when she owned a house? Unheard of.
More than one foreigner I know of has had the same sort of issue even with totally unrelated people taking what might be called “adverse possession”. The legal remedies to get unwanted visitors out of a property are few, expensive and sloooowww. This is a centerpiece of a whole series I wrote on why I don’t own my own home here in the Philippines.
… he was settling the divorce here and then going through courts over the house in the Philippines as she was claiming 100% of the property.
My dad then re-married a Filipino, they had a child together and he built another house in the Philippines and sold his property in the UK. He was still going through legal procedures with his ex wife over the house (it went on for many years) …
Wow, you know how to leave folks in suspense. How did this case turn out? To recapitulate the obvious, there’s a good argument that the first wife, did, in fact have 100% ownership of the house in strict real estate terms. However if the house was built/bought during the marriage, then there’s also a good possibility your dad did have some legal interest … but the problem remains that he really did not own anything.
No matter how many times I hit that point that a foreigner can’t own property it never seems to sink in … I don’t mean that to sound so harsh, but 9/10 of the “complex questions” I get on this issue aren’t really complex at all … no matter what interests people ‘think’ a foreigner may have in the property are usually overridden by the fact he did not actually own anything at all … it really boils down that way.
… My father passed away 2 years ago, just a few days before he died he went for citizenship in the Philippines and I am not sure if he was given it. …
I felt I had to touch on this one. It really caught my attention. It is extremely rare for a foreigner to be granted Philippine citizenship. A person has to go through a rather arduous application process, including more than 5 year’s legal residence in the Philippines while married to (the same) Filipino, 910 years continuous legal residency if single), fluency in at least one of the official Philippine languages (aside from English), etc.
Or, upon occasion, the Philippine Congress may pass a special bill granting citizenship to a foreigner who has made significant contribution to the country, lived here a long time, etc. In nearly 4 years here I have seen this process come to fruition once, that I know of.
Do you think your dad may have been in one of these categories?
I think the reason behind the citizenship issue in your mind is the possibility that somehow your dad may have become a Philippine citizen and thus be entitled to own property in his own right. Unlikely that happened but if it did by some chance, it really changes nothing. The Philippine Constitution doesn’t restrict property owners to Philippine citizens only, it restricts property owners to “Natural Born Filipinos”. Natural born Filipinos are those who can claim at least one parent was a Filipino at the time of their birth. Period. There is no language whatsoever that grants property ownership to naturalized citizens of the Philippines. So it would seem to me this point is moot.
… I was in touch with his wife for around 1 year after his death but she has stopped all contact for no good reason. As time is going by I am wondering why she would have stopped responding to my mail and it dawned on me perhaps it could be to do with Inheritance. Something I never questioned or even thought of until now! She was trying to continue the case over the house but I have no idea if she won or if she is still proceeding with it. …
Well this is perhaps of some key importance here, and I can’t be of much help. An important clue might be if she is continuing a case she has to feel you have an interest … otherwise, why would a person continue a court case against a dead man? Frankly my head is turned a bit upside down here. If the case is continuing, who is it being continued against? What did I miss here?
… My question to you is… Would Inheritance be a reason for her not wanting to continue a relationship with me!?!? …
Ummm, yes, I would think so. Isn’t the first thing a lawyer usually advises in any sort of court case, silence? Say nothing to any third parties about the case, and in particular, avoid contact with the “other side”? I mean this is pretty much a standard procedure in any sort of case in my (limited) legal experience. There’s nothing personal in this sort of advice either, it’s just common legal practice in any country I am familiar with.
… Would I be entitled to Inheriting!?!? …
Seem s highly unlikely to me. Your father, one assumes in full command of his faculties, bought a house for another person (who happened to be his wife). You are obviously not a child of that marriage, so what would your claim be?
This is very obviously something you need competent legal advice on. My non-legal opinion is I see no basis for a claim, but only you can decide if it is worth pursuing, after seeking proper guidance from a lawyer who is competent in Filipino law.
… how would I find out more information ie who my dads attorney was …
A tall order, if you don’t even know the lawyer involved. Perhaps you could inquire of the most likely court the case might have been filed in, but again how to do that by searching the Internet I have no idea …
… where to gain access to land registry/title!?!?? …
This one is simpler. Go to the municipo where the property is located. Can you do this online? Almost certainly not. My guess is, you need to make a trip to the Philippines and deal with the local authorities face to face.
Probably not the answer you wanted to hear, but it’s the best I can give. In my personal view, any claim you feel you may have is tenuous at best, but again, I may be totally wrong … you need a lawyer.
Let’s try to boil this down to real world terms as a way of concluding this article. Legal cases usually revolve around money. You may feel badly treated by some of the people involved in this situation, and indeed you may have been badly treated in fact, I can’t say.
But in the end, what can a court do? Resolve it all to money … typically called damages … if you could sue and then prevail.
When a court (judge) decides damages, one of the first things on his/her mind is, what did the plaintiff lose here?
You have to decide something here for yourself here. You personally lost what? Money your father spent that you might reasonably have expected to inherit upon his death? In poker we call that “betting on the come”.
That money’s pretty much gone, isn’t it? The court can’t reverse your father’s actions, take away from his widow and give to you because the money might have become yours had your dad not chosen to spend it as he did. Would the court order the property sold and share of the proceeds given to you to “make you whole”? Pretty unlikely in my book.
They can’t award you ownership in the property … your father had an interest if his spouse died before him, but she didn’t. Unless you marry his widow, there’s no share I see you having a claim a claim to. Re-reading that is sounds a bit harsh, but it’s my honest opinion. Correct me if I have missed something here.
The law is pretty specific that while a foreigner spouse may inherit a partial interest in a property upon the death of his Filipino spouse, that interest can not be passed on. He can’t jump generations and will it to a child … he holds what is typically called a ‘life interest’. While he lives, he can’t be dispossessed from the property he inherited a share of, but upon his death his interest dies with him.
And as a final point, in re-reading your message, I see there was what appears to be a legitimate child of the first marriage … your half-sibling. I almost missed that in passing. This person is one of the keys to the whole affair. A child of the marriage between the Filipino and her partner obviously has a much stronger claim to the property than a child of a previous marriage.
If you read the article I suggested, you’ll see this child, who is apparently the legitimate child of your father comes in to the inheritance picture as a “compulsory heir”. So whatever your own claim might or might not be, this person’s claim is at least as strong.
Do you know this person? Are you willing to do legal battle there as well? Do you think they are prepared to “buy out” your possible interest in the property they now own in partnership with their mother?
Or let me ask you a last question here? Is this about some significant amount of money that is really important to your future, or is this (years after the fact) quest a mission to make sure someone else doesn’t get what it’s pretty clear your father wanted them to have? Settling bitterness and misunderstandings via a court case seldom succeeds, even if you win.
I realize I took a risk with that last question and I hope you didn’t take offense, but the primary question just has to be asked. So often these issues revolve around some kind of “score sheet” where the money isn’t really important but the “principle” is. In the whole set of questions you asked on this affair, I don’t ‘get’ just what it is the you actually want out of this situation. No need to answer, but thinking tis through might help you put your own mind at ease.
I wish I could be of more help here, but in all honesty I can’t. I hope in some small way I have helped you put this situation into perspective. All I can say is, your father seems to have lived his life as he wanted to, and one can easily speculate he died a happy man. Would that everyone be granted that wish.
In America it is nor uncommon to see an older couple on the road in an expensive motor home or a boat with a plaque on the back that says, “We’re Spending our Children’s Inheritance”.
Sometimes it is a joke. Sometimes not.