|GABRIEL VS. CA & GABRIEL|
GR NO. 101512
AUGUST 7, 1992
An illegitimate son (private respondent) of the decedent filed a petition to be appointed as the administrator of the estate of the latter. The same was opposed by the widow and legitimate daughter (petitioners) of the decedent and asked for the disqualification of the illegitimate son claiming that they are more competent to act as administratrix in accordance with the order of preference of appointment as stated in Sec. 6 Rule 78 of the Rules of Court.
Who is more qualified to be appointed as administrator/administratrix of the estate, the widow and legitimate child or the illegitimate child?
CO-ADMINISTRATION or more than one administrator may be appointed.
Section 6, Rule 78 of the Rules of Court provides:
Sec. 6. When and to whom letters of administration granted. — If no executor is named in the will, or the executor or executors are incompetent, refuse the trust, or fail to give bond, or a person dies intestate, administration shall be granted:
(a) To the surviving husband or wife, as the case may be, or next of kin, or both, in the discretion of the court, or to such person as such surviving husband or wife, or next of kin, requests to have appointed, if competent and willing to serve;
(b) If such husband or wife, as the case may be, or the next of kin, or the person selected by them, be incompetent or unwilling, or if the husband or widow, or next of kin, neglects for thirty (30) days after the death of the person to apply for administration or to request that administration be granted to some other person, it may be granted to one or more of the principal creditors, if competent and willing to serve;
(c) If there is no such creditor competent and willing to serve, it may be granted to such other person as the court may select.
Evidently, the foregoing provision of the Rules prescribes the order of preference in the issuance of letters of administration, categorically seeks out the surviving spouse, the next of kin and the creditors, and requires that sequence to be observed in appointing an administrator. It would be a grave abuse of discretion for the probate court to imperiously set aside and insouciantly ignore that directive without any valid and sufficient reason therefor.
In the appointment of the administrator of the estate of a deceased person, the principal consideration reckoned with is the interest in said estate of the one to be appointed as administrator. This is the same consideration which Section 6 of Rule 78 takes into account in establishing the order of preference in the appointment of administrators for the estate. The underlying assumption behind this rule is that those who will reap the benefit of a wise, speedy and economical administration of the estate, or, on the other hand, suffer the consequences of waste, improvidence or mismanagement, have the highest interest and most influential motive to administer the estate correctly.
This is likewise the same consideration which the law takes into account in establishing the preference of the widow to administer the estate of her husband upon the latter's death, because she is supposed to have an interest therein as a partner in the conjugal partnership. Under the law, the widow would have the right of succession over a portion of the exclusive property of the decedent, aside from her share in the conjugal partnership. For such reason, she would have as much, if not more, interest in administering the entire estate correctly than any other next of kin. On this ground alone, the widow of the deceased has every right and is very much entitled to the administration of the estate of her husband since one who has greater interest in the estate is preferred to another who has less.
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On the other hand, we feel that we should not nullify the appointment of private respondent as administrator. The determination of a person's suitability for the office of judicial administrator rests, to a great extent, in the sound judgment of the court exercising the power of appointment and said judgment is not to be interfered with on appeal unless the said court is clearly in error. Administrators have such a right and corresponding interest in the execution of their trust as would entitle them to protection from removal without just cause. Thus, Section 2 of Rule 82 provides the legal and specific causes authorizing the probate court to remove an administrator.
While it is conceded that the court is invested with ample discretion in the removal of an administrator, it must, however, have some fact legally before it in order to justify such removal. There must be evidence of an act or omission on the part of the administrator not conformable to or in disregard of the rules or the orders of the court which it deems sufficient or substantial to warrant the removal of the administrator. In the instant case, a mere importunity by some of the heirs of the deceased, there being no factual and substantial bases therefor, is not adequate ratiocination for the removal of private respondent. Suffice it to state that the removal of an administrator does not lie on the whims, caprices and dictates of the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate. In addition, the court may also exercise its discretion in appointing an administrator where those who are entitled to letters fail to apply therefor within a given time.
On the equiponderance of the foregoing legal positions, we see no reason why, for the benefit of the estate and those interested therein, more than one administrator may not be appointed since that is both legally permissible and sanctioned in practice. Section 6(a) of Rule 78 specifically states that letters of administration may be issued to both the surviving spouse and the next of kin. In fact, Section 2 of Rule 82 contemplates a contingency which may arise when there is only one administrator but which may easily be remediable where there is co-administration, to wit: "When an executor or administrator dies, resigns, or is removed the remaining executor or administrator may administer the trust alone, . . . ." Also, co-administration herein will constitute a recognition of both the extent of the interest of the widow in the estate and the creditable services rendered to and which may further be expected from private respondent for the same estate.
Under both Philippine and American jurisprudence, the appointment of co-administrators has been upheld for various reasons, viz: (1) to have the benefit of their judgment and perhaps at all times to have different interests represented; (2) where justice and equity demand that opposing parties or factions be represented in the management of the estate of the deceased; (3) where the estate is large or, from any cause, an intricate and perplexing one to settle; (4) to have all interested persons satisfied and the representatives to work in harmony for the best interests of the estate; and (5) when a person entitled to the administration of an estate desires to have another competent person associated with him in the office.
Under the circumstances obtaining herein, we deem it just, equitable and advisable that there be a co-administration of the estate of the deceased by petitioner and private respondent. As earlier stated, the purpose of having co-administrators is to have the benefit of their judgment and perhaps at all times to have different interests represented, especially considering that in this proceeding they will respectively represent the legitimate and illegitimate groups of heirs to the estate. Thereby, it may reasonably be expected that all interested persons will be satisfied, with the representatives working in harmony under the direction and supervision of the probate court.