Can a foreigner inherit land in the Philippines?

by | Mar 28, 2016 | Property Law, Ownership and Possession

Calla lilies to denote a funeral and the subsequent inheritance process.

In this example, a foreigner inherits land from his filipino spouse in a childless marriage.

There are many possible variations of this theme. An exhaustive dissertation of all of them would take volumes. This article will discuss one particular, common scenario. In this scenario, a foreigner spouse is married to a Filipino. The Filipino owns land in the Philippines. Let’s assume there are no children, mutual or otherwise, involved. Philippine law prohibits a foreigner from buying land in the Philippines. But what if the Filipino spouse were to pass away? Can the surviving foreigner spouse then inherit the land owned by the deceased Filipino?

Yes, a foreigner may inherit land from the Filipino

Yes. The Philippine laws that apply here are the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines and the 1949 Civil Code inherited from Spain.

Field to illustrate an inheritance of land.

Yes, a foreigner can inherit Philippine land if there is no will. Default inheritance rules will then come into play.

Although Sections 3 and 8 of Article XII of the Constitution famously restrict the ownership of land by individuals to Filipinos and former Filipinos, Section 7 of the same Article allows foreign citizens to own land by way of legal inheritance.

Section 7. Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private lands shall be transferred or conveyed except to individuals, corporations, or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain.

Note that Section 7 speaks of hereditary succession. In legal speak, this means that a foreigner can acquire land through intestate inheritance, i.e. the default laws on inheritance which are not transfers of ownership by way of a last will and testament.

Roses on a church bench to denote a funeral.

A foreigner cannot inherit land through a will.

The Supreme Court has ruled that a transfer of ownership to a foreigner by way of last will and testament would be unconstitutional.

We are of the opinion that the Constitutional provision which enables aliens to acquire private lands does not extend to testamentary succession for otherwise the prohibition will be for naught and meaningless. Any alien would be able to circumvent the prohibition by paying money to a Philippine landowner in exchange for a devise of a piece of land.

Ramirez vs. Vda. de Ramirez, G.R. No. L-27952, February 15, 1982

This means that Section 7, Article XII of the Constitution should be read in relation with the Philippine Civil Code’s provisions on intestate inheritance.

The Philippine Civil Code on Intestate Inheritance

Articles 995, 997 and 1001 of the Civil Code are the specific sections to look at. I’ll give you the entire subsection on a surviving spouse:

Keys in a door to symbolize an estate.

Without any ascendants or descendants, the spouse shall inherit the entire estate.

Subsection 4. – Surviving Spouse

Art. 995. In the absence of legitimate descendants and ascendants, and illegitimate children and their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, the surviving spouse shall inherit the entire estate, without prejudice to the rights of brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, should there be any, under article 1001. (946a)

Art. 996. If a widow or widower and legitimate children or descendants are left, the surviving spouse has in the succession the same share as that of each of the children. (834a)

Art. 997. When the widow or widower survives with legitimate parents or ascendants, the surviving spouse shall be entitled to one-half of the estate, and the legitimate parents or ascendants to the other half. (836a)

Art. 998. If a widow or widower survives with illegitimate children, such widow or widower shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance, and the illegitimate children or their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, to the other half. (n)

Padlock and keys to denote inheritance of an estate.

With ascendants, the spouse inherits half of the estate.

Art. 999. When the widow or widower survives with legitimate children or their descendants and illegitimate children or their descendants, whether legitimate or illegitimate, such widow or widower shall be entitled to the same share as that of a legitimate child. (n)

Art. 1000. If legitimate ascendants, the surviving spouse, and illegitimate children are left, the ascendants shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance, and the other half shall be divided between the surviving spouse and the illegitimate children so that such widow or widower shall have one-fourth of the estate, and the illegitimate children the other fourth. (841a)

Art. 1001. Should brothers and sisters or their children survive with the widow or widower, the latter shall be entitled to one-half of the inheritance and the brothers and sisters or their children to the other half. (953, 837a)

Art. 1002. In case of a legal separation, if the surviving spouse gave cause for the separation, he or she shall not have any of the rights granted in the preceding articles. (n)

These articles should be read in relation to Article 985 of the same Code.

Article 985. In default of legitimate children and descendants of the deceased, his parents and ascendants shall inherit from him, to the exclusion of collateral relatives. (935a)

The Inheritance Rights of the Foreign Spouse

So given our scenario of a childless Filipina wife who owns land in the Philippines, should she pass away without a will, what are the legal inheritance rights of her foreign, surviving husband?

A question mark on a wooden floor, as the entire post has been about this question.

So, what are the legal rights of her surviving husband?


He can inherit her property (including land), subject to the shares of her surviving relatives.

1) If the Filipina wife were to pass away with none of her parents or siblings still living, the foreign widower would be entitled to his wife’s entire estate.

2) If the Filipina wife were to pass away with her parents and siblings still living, the foreign widower would be entitled to half his wife’s estate and her parents to the other half.

3) If the Filipina wife were to pass away after her parents had already passed away and with her siblings still living, the foreign widower would be entitled to half his wife’s estate and her siblings to the other half.

Houses on their plots of land from the air as an example. A foreigner can own the house but not the land.

The foreigner spouse may own the house built on land, which helps reduce his risk later on.

There are other aspects of the law you might consider in practice.

A foreigner cannot own land, but he can own the house built on it. A thorough documentation of his costs and acquisition of the house in his name, amply corroborated by other evidence, can establish that at least the house will not be part of his deceased wife’s estate. This reduces the extent of his exposure to problems down the line.

It might also be possible for the wife to encumber the Title to the land in some way — via her making a limited will or through an annotation on the Title or through some other deed (such as a lease agreement if this is allowed under their marriage settlement) — so as to protect her widower’s use of the land for at least his lifetime.

A group of seagulls excluding one member to signify disinheritance.

Disinheritance of other family members is quite difficult.

There are more extreme scenarios of the wife executing a will that explicitly disinherits other members of her family for strong reasons (check out Articles 919, 920 and 921 of the Civil Code), leaving her husband her sole heir, but these should certainly not be the first recourse without strong cause when other legal ways can be put in place.


Atty. Francesco C. Britanico

See also: Philippine inheritance and foreign wills


  1. Sarah

    Hi, I would like to ask if my foreign husband will able to get my property that I bought when I was single? I also have a stepson that is dual citizen. I want to know if they can get my properties if I pass away. I would like it to give to my relatives in Philippines. My husband is a greedy person and wise it seems to me that he is interested on the property that I bought alone when I was single. Please give an advice… or is it possible to make a will?

      • Jared

        I have almost the same question. My father died and he had his first legal wife from a foreign country and had 2 children. However my father went back to the Philippines and legally married to my mom and had 3 children (not d divorce from the first wife). For how many years he left my mom and found a lived in partner which was not legally married and have 2 children. can you please tell me if the foreign wife will have share since she is still alive and what is the division of shares in all siblings and my mom?

  2. Mary Li

    Hi! I’m into Real Estate but I haven’t renewed my license yet I’ll do it very soon anyway.
    My question is..Does a widower foreign national who was once married to a Filipina can buy a land in the Philippines? My answer to him was yes since he was once married to a Filipina.Am I correct? LOL! Please correct me if I’m wrong.Can’t wait to hear from you soon.Thank you so much!

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi. Only a Filipino national can buy land in the Philippines. Since marriage does not confer citizenship, a widower who was once married to a Filipina did not thereby become a Filipino national and he still cannot buy land in the Philippines.

  3. Susan

    If a person who is born naturally Philippino however left Philippine and took overseas citizenship. As well as both parents are philippines born deceased in Philippine. Does he/she need to be a dual citizenship before owing an inheritance land.
    Secondly, if the inheritance owner passed away before the partner, does it means all the property belong to the partner?
    However, both made a wills, will the first party wills still have some right after the second party also passed away in 3 months period.

  4. Oma

    Can a foreigner lease land owned by his Filipina spouse?
    I heard one can lease land from a Filipino owner as long as it is not a foreigner spouse leasing the land.
    Is this true?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      A foreigner can lease land in the Philippines.

      Husband and wife in general can only sell or lease to each other under certain conditions as provided for in the Civil Code :

      Article 1490. The husband and the wife cannot sell property to each other, except:

      (1) When a separation of property was agreed upon in the marriage settlements; or

      (2) When there has been a judicial separation of property under article 191.

      Article 1646. The persons disqualified to buy referred to in articles 1490 and 1491, are also disqualified to become lessees of the things mentioned therein.


    Can a foreigner lease land from his living Filipina spouse?

    I’ve heard that one can’t lease land from a spouse. Is this correct?

  6. lifessnap

    Hello, I have a question on where to start to figure out if my dad has land to begin with in the Philippines. My parent have always said that he did, but how do I find out for sure? I don’t know any of my relatives there and have never been there…Thanks, W

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      That’s a big, open ended question. I’d ask him, or at least ask about the documents he may have such as land titles. If neither are possible, it becomes considerably more difficult unless you can find family members who can tell you more, including at the very least a way to narrow down the location.

      • lifessnap

        I know where his land is, but as for documents..he’s in the hospital so he’s not able able to tell me at the moment. It’s probably in the Philippines? As for family, he hasn’t been in good terms with them in years, with them fighting over far as I understood. So am just trying to figure out if there’s somewhere that may have copies of titles? Thanks for your comment

      • Lawyers in the Philippines

        The city or provincial register of deeds keeps copies of the titles, which are public records. The local property tax records can also help in identifying the property’s registered owner. However, if it’s family property, there is always the chance that the land is still registered in his own parents’ names, which would make it more difficult to find without the sort of information that he, his family, or their documents can provide.

      • lifessnap

        Thank you. The land is supposedly in his name. But will try to find out

      • lifessnap

        I wrote this a while ago, but I just contacted the registry in my dad’s province. The deeds is under my father’s parents name, my dad’s sister is listed as a representative (not sure what that means), but I’m pretty sure there was a will left notating that the land would go to my Father. Any ideas on where to start with trying to find a will?

      • Lawyers in the Philippines

        Unless the will was already submitted to probate — in which case it will have been submitted to the court — such a will would likely be in the possession of the family or the parents’ confidants. I suggest you ask your father first and then widen your search from there.

  7. Thomas

    First: Thank you for the well written article.

    As a foreigner in the Philippines I would like to ask 2 questions:
    1.) If the Civil Code avoids that a foreigner can own land in the Philippines, how the foreign widower can be entitled for the entire estate (described in scenario 1) In this case, who would hold the title of the estate?

    2.) In some countries it’s possible that the heir (e.g. the children) resign to succeed until both parents will die, this will be fixed in a notarially certified contract and after both parents died the estate will be split according the equivalent law. Would be something like that possible according to the law in the Philippines?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      1) The Constitution prevails over any other law. The prohibition against alien ownership of land is in the Constitution, but so is the exception in the case of intestate succession. The foreign widower can have title to the property.

      2) I’m not entirely sure what the question is asking, but note that there are definite prohibitions on contracting over future inheritance. Article 1347 of the Civil Code provides that:

      No contract may be entered into upon future inheritance except in cases expressly authorized by law.

  8. Magdalena Adam

    I own a house and lot in the Philippines which i acquired through inheritance from my parents. Can my spouse and children inherit and dispose it if the situation calls for it. Will forming a family corporation be better , me as 60% and my 3 children and husband 40%? Which mean putting the property as asset of the corporation.

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      I don’t see the need for forming a corporation. If it’s your property, you can do what you want with it, and they can inherit from you via intestate succession.

  9. Kathie Simmons

    I inherited properties in the Philippines that I want to sell now. I do not have dual citizenship. Can I sell these properties?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Yes, you can.

      • Jessica

        I have a similar situation. My dad is 1 of 5 siblings who are inheriting land in the Philippines. Somehow all 4 of his siblings acquired dual citizenship, however he was turned away at the consulate for lack of a naturalization form or any documents that show that he was a citizen of the Philippines, even though he was born there to two Filipino parents. The 4 siblings are claiming that he cannot get his share because he is not a dual citizen. My dad is worried he will be cut out completely because he cannot sell the land without dual citizenship. But you are saying he can? Even when it involves 4 other siblings?

  10. khai macasaet -Morger

    good evening.
    A friend of my mine from cebu let his husband lease her land and start building a house for retirement. THe reason why the husband lease the land so if his filipina spouse were to pass away, the mother and siblings can not run after him. is this true?

    But i read above ” If the Filipina wife were to pass away with her parents and siblings still living, the foreign widower would be entitled to half his wife’s estate and her parents to the other half.”

    I am asking this in behalf of my friend.I am thankful there is this page where i can ask. Thank you and GOD Bless.

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi. There are generally problems with leasing land from your own spouse — see my answer to similar comments/questions above.

      Yes, the estate would be divided according to the above provided that there is no will.

  11. Jeffrey Hagosojos

    If my mother passed away in the philippines and the property is under her name then my dad remarries in America and they are now both US citizens, who gets the property after my father dies? Does my siblings and I get the property or the woman that my dad married in America?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Much depends on the specifics of the situation.

      Will send you an email, but you may find some preliminary answers here.

  12. Adam Barry

    Hi There, My Filipino wife has a 7 year old Filipino daughter to a previous non married relationship. I as the foreign man are now married to my wife and we live together with my wife’s daughter / my step daughter. My wife has both mother and father along with 2 brothers. In the event my wife were to pass away and all of the above are still alive may you please advise who will inherit what of our house and land in the Philippines?

    Also do the inheritance laws in the Philippines work the same on all land sizes in the Philippines or only 1000 Sqm lots and below? As it was mentioned online on a blog, foreigners can inherit if the lot is 1000 sqm or below. Above 1000 Sqm the foreigner cannot inherit and must dispose of the lot and house in a reasonable period of time? is this true or not?

    Thank you for your time.

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Will send you an email.

  13. Myrna Canama

    Ascendants 50%
    Foreign husband 25% & legitimate son 25%?
    In case the Filipina wife passed without a written Will ?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      The rules is that descendants will exclude ascendants.

      If you have a son in this situation, then the parent/s or grandparent/s will not inherit. Only the son and the husband.

  14. Chesca

    Good day!

    Filipino spouses Mr. & Mrs A died sometime in the 1980’s leaving properties to 4 heirs; one of the heirs, “E”, became a US citizen and died a US citizen. She left behind 2 US born children and a Filipina born but now also a US citizen daughter. All are in their 50’s now.

    Spouses Mr. and Mrs. A didnt leave any will but their daughter E even though already a US citizen left a will stating that her 3 children be her heirs of the Philippine properties.

    Do the 3 US citizen grandchildren of the late spouses Mr & Mrs A inherit their US citizen mother’s share with the other 3 Filipino heirs?

    Thank you

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      There’s a great deal more involved, but the basic rule would be that E’s children can be expected to inherit in her place.

  15. Ton

    fil spouses acquired tru naturalization american citizenship relinguishing their fil citizenship, one of the spouses died, without leaving a will, no children and the parents of the deceased died long before. Will the estate in the philiipines of the deceased be subject to american or philippine estate law?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      US laws on inheritance will apply, subject to the restrictions fixed by the Philippine constitution as well as Philippine procedural rules.

  16. suria juan

    Dear Sir, what if a filipino wife passes away, leaving behind no surviving parents, 4 brothers and sisters, a husband and 3 children. How would the property pass, and each would be entitled to how many shares?

    Thank you.

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      With those bare facts, her heirs would only be her husband and 3 children. They would each be entitled to equal shares of her exclusive property after the conjugal share of the husband, if any, is accounted for.

  17. Jane

    Hi! Both our parents died and left an agricultural land property under their names. Me and my 2 siblings are thinking of transferring the title to our names but I am now a citizen of the other country. Can I own an agricultural land property in the Philippines that is more than 2 hectares through inheritance? What is the law for inheriting an agricultural land for a non-Fillipino who acquired other countries citizenship?

    Thank you!

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Will send you an email

  18. Rebecca Javier

    Hi, My daughter’s birth certificate has some errors on data entry such as: Mother’s middle name is supposed to be U and not N. The date of parent’s marriage , month,day , year , place and legitimacy . Will there be problems in reference to her pension application, inheritance claim and other government benefits? I would like a relative of mine to represent me in court. Do you have list of lawyers to select from? How much will it cost ?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Hi. Will send you an email.

  19. Rebecca Javier

    I do appreciate your quick response.Thank you kindly.

  20. A. F. C.

    I am a filipina married to a usa citizen. I bought a land and the title say I am married to my husband. On this land My husband and I build a business, even if the investment fund was mostly provided by my husband I put the business in to my name as sole prop. both of my parents are alive and they also have childrens/ that are my half siblings. I also have a property that i got when i was still single. I belived when i submitted my report of marriage to the phiippines embassy, it was entered as conjugal. my question is what happen if i die, my thinking is that 1/2 of of this 2 property will automatically given to my husband as his part of conjugal properties. the other half will be divided in 2, the 1/2 will be given to my husband and the other half will be spilt between my mother and father. am i correct? if my parents are not alive but my half siblings are alive will my foreign husband inherit all my properties? what if both my mom and dad decided they dont want the inheritance will my husband received it all? or my sibling will get their part?

  21. Tony V

    In a situation where my father passed away without a will and having a surviving spouse and two children, how will his estate be divided among the surviving heirs based on current Philippine Inheritance Law? Also, even if the law states that shares are to be divided as such, can an extra judicial document change this to something else?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      It depends on your father’s citizenship at the time of his death. This will govern the law which applies in the apportioning of his estate.

      Assuming that Philippine law governs, there is some latitude allowed for practical considerations, and also heirs can choose to renounce or repudiate their inheritance, but these are very dependent on the particular facts of a case.

  22. Joel

    Hello. My question is around citizenship. I am currently a US Citizen. If I inherit real estate in the Philippines from my parents, is it possible for me and/or my children to obtain dual citizenship? Is there such a path?

  23. Hala


    we are planning to invest in agriculture land in the Philippines, it will be fully registered on my Filipino friend name(Like a sister to me) and we will lease it from her for 25 years with renewal for 50 . our issue how we can guarantee that God forbid something happened to her and we need to deal with her family. if she write in the well they are not allowed to end the lease contract with us ? or if she keep the registered Title paper with us will it be enough to guarantee our rights ? or if we build a house on the land I heard we can own it even if the land not for us and no one will be able to kick us out ? she has a husband, kids and mother and father . please suggest what is the most guaranteed option?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Will send you an email.

  24. Jessica

    hi atty, this is jessica, i would like to know if it’s true that when you buy a property after you got married to a foreigner like land for example, during the transfer of the title to my name my foreigner husband will be included in the title also?

  25. Sherwin

    How about a same sex couple who were married overseas but Philippines doesn’t recognize same sex marriage. Can a foreign husband still get an inheritance like land in Philippines when a Filipino passed away?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      This is a novel question.

      Unfortunately, such a marriage is not recognized in the Philippines. Under present law, there can be no intestate inheritance based on a same sex marriage.

  26. Alexis David

    Hi Atty,

    I was born in London but moved to the Philippines when I was 3 years old and acquired a Filipino passport here in London through the Philippines embassy.
    After I came back to London my Filipino passport has expired in 2003 and I now only carry a British passport.
    Can I potentially own Land in the Philippines?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Yes. The expiration of your passport did not terminate your Filipino citizenship.

  27. P

    First, thank you for your website.
    Here’s my situation. I inherited a small land (about 350 sq m and title in my name) in Philippines while I was a Filipino Citizen. I am now a U.S. Citizen. Not dual citizen. I plan to build a house for my retirement. My other siblings had me sign a legal paper that authorizes them to sell it. I signed it out of anger (been pestering me to sign it for a long time). I plan to revoke this legal document soon. So far, they have not sold the place. I have my other sibling checked it out at the government records. I would like to transfer the title of house (when done) and lot to my U.S. Citizen child now. Child is not yet of legal age but will be in a few months. What is the best approach to do this? Wait for him to be of legal age then transfer it to his name? if I transfer it to my child and but did not revoke the authorization I signed before. Does my siblings have a claim to it?

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      It is best that you revoke the Power of Attorney now and ask that they return the paper to you.

      The different modes of transfer have different tax implications and it depends on your specific situation is.

      One important consideration you should keep in mind is that a non-Filipino citizen cannot acquire land except through intestate inheritance.

  28. Lyn

    Im legally married with my husband year 2005 we dont have our own children. He was divorced in united states before we got married. My husband is a permanent resident visa only. He got 4 legitimate children and 1 illegitimate. All of his children are american citizen (born and raise in america, all are legal age). We aquired our own property year 2011. My husband passed away year 2018. I would ike to ask atty up to what extent is the righst of my husbands children with our property? In what way will they be able to claim or get their share? Thanks

    • Lawyers in the Philippines

      Sent you an email.


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