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Survivorship Agreement

 

G.R. No. 82027 March 29, 1990

VITUG vs.CA

 

Facts:

 

D left a will appointing RF as co-administrator of her estate together with her husband R.  R asked the court to sell certain property of the estate to cover the advances he made on a savings account which was used as payment of estate tax.  RF opposed saying that the funds withdrawn from the savings account were conjugal partnership properties and part of the estate, and thus, there is no ground for reimbursement.  R insisted are his exclusive property saying that he acquired the same by virtue of a survivorship agreement executed with his wife D and the bank.

 

Issues:

 

  1. Whether the survivorship agreement constitutes a conveyance mortis causa
  2. Whether the survivorship agreement constitutes a donation inter vivos
  3. Whether the survivorship agreement is valid

 

Held:

 

The conveyance in question is not, first of all, one of mortis causa, which should be embodied in a will. A will has been defined as "a personal, solemn, revocable and free act by which a capacitated person disposes of his property and rights and declares or complies with duties to take effect after his death." In other words, the bequest or device must pertain to the testator.  In this case, the monies subject of the savings account were in the nature of conjugal funds. 

 

Neither is the survivorship agreement a donation inter vivos, for obvious reasons, because it was to take effect after the death of one party. Secondly, it is not a donation between the spouses because it involved no conveyance of a spouse's own properties to the other.

 

It is also our opinion that the agreement involves no modification petition of the conjugal partnership, as held by the Court of Appeals, by "mere stipulation"  and that it is no "cloak"  to circumvent the law on conjugal property relations. Certainly, the spouses are not prohibited by law to invest conjugal property, say, by way of a joint and several bank account, more commonly denominated in banking parlance as an "and/or" account. In the case at bar, when the spouses opened the savings account, they merely put what rightfully belonged to them in a money-making venture. They did not dispose of it in favor of the other, which would have arguably been sanctionable as a prohibited donation. And since the funds were conjugal, it can not be said that one spouse could have pressured the other in placing his or her deposits in the money pool.

 

The validity of the contract seems debatable by reason of its "survivor-take-all" feature, but in reality, that contract imposed a mere obligation with a term, the term being death. Such agreements are permitted by the Civil Code.

 

Under Article 2010 of the Code:

 

ART. 2010. By an aleatory contract, one of the parties or both reciprocally bind themselves to give or to do something in consideration of what the other shall give or do upon the happening of an event which is uncertain, or which is to occur at an indeterminate time.

 

Under the aforequoted provision, the fulfillment of an aleatory contract depends on either the happening of an event which is (1) "uncertain," (2) "which is to occur at an indeterminate time." A survivorship agreement, the sale of a sweepstake ticket, a transaction stipulating on the value of currency, and insurance have been held to fall under the first category, while a contract for life annuity or pension under Article 2021, et sequentia, has been categorized under the second. 25 In either case, the element of risk is present. In the case at bar, the risk was the death of one party and survivorship of the other.

 

However, as we have warned:

 

But although the survivorship agreement is per se not contrary to law its operation or effect may be violative of the law. For instance, if it be shown in a given case that such agreement is a mere cloak to hide an inofficious donation, to transfer property in fraud of creditors, or to defeat the legitime of a forced heir, it may be assailed and annulled upon such grounds. No such vice has been imputed and established against the agreement involved in this case.

 

There is no demonstration here that the survivorship agreement had been executed for such unlawful purposes, or, as held by the respondent court, in order to frustrate our laws on wills, donations, and conjugal partnership.

 

The conclusion is accordingly unavoidable that the wife, having predeceased her husband, the latter has acquired upon her death a vested right over the amounts under the account. Insofar as the respondent court ordered their inclusion in the inventory of assets left by Mrs. Vitug, we hold that the court was in error. Being the separate property of petitioner, it forms no more part of the estate of the deceased.

 

 

Note: Please read BIR Rev. Ruling No. 010-2003, where the BIR Ruled that a Survivorship Agreement constitutes, for tax purposes, a transfer in contemplation of death and therefore, subject to estate tax under Section 85 (B) of the National Internal Revenue Code.

For the complete text of the ruling, please visit www.bir.gov.ph


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