Can a foreigner inherit land in the Philippines?

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

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.

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.

Specifically, Articles 995, 997 and 1001 of the Civil Code. I’ll give you the entire subsection on a surviving spouse:

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)

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)

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?

Answer:

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.

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.

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

50 thoughts on “Can a foreigner inherit land in the Philippines?

  1. 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?

      1. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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. 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?

    1. 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.

  5. 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. 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

    1. 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.

      1. 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 property.as 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

      2. 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.

      3. 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?

      4. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

  9. 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.

    1. 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.

  10. 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?

    1. Much depends on the specifics of the situation.

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

  11. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  13. 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

    1. 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.

  14. 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?

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

  15. 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.

    1. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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 ?

  18. 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?

  19. 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?

    1. 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.

  20. 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?

  21. Hello

    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?

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