This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila dismissing the complaint with costs.
The parties are siblings who were the only heirs at law and next of kin of Gregorio del Val, who passed away intestate. An administrator was appointed for the estate of the deceased, and, after a partial administration, it was closed. During the lifetime of the deceased he took out insurance on his life for the sum of P40,000 and made it payable to Andres del Val as sole beneficiary. After his death, the defendant Andres collected the face of the policy. He paid the sum of P18,365.20 to redeem certain real estate which the decedent had sold to third persons with a right to repurchase. The redemption of said premises was made by the attorney of the defendant in the name of the plaintiff and the defendant as heirs of the deceased vendor. Andres, on death of the deceased, took possession of most of his personal property and that he has also the balance on the insurance policy amounting to P21,634.80.
Plaintiffs contend that the amount of the insurance policy belonged to the estate of the deceased and not to the defendant personally, hence they are entitled to a partition not only of the real and personal property, but also of the P40,000 life insurance. The complaint prays a partition of all the property, both real and personal, left by the deceased, and that the defendant account for P21,634.80. They also wanted to divide this equally among the plaintiffs and defendant along with the other property of deceased.
The defendant’s claim was that redemption of the real estate sold by his father was made in the name of the plaintiffs and himself instead of in his name alone without his knowledge or consent. He also averred that it was not his intention to use the proceeds of the insurance policy for the benefit of any person but himself, he alleging that he was and is the sole owner thereof and that it is his individual property
The trial court refused to give relief to either party and dismissed the action due to the argument that the action for partition failed to comply with the Civil Procedure Code sec. 183, in that it does not 'contain an adequate description of the real property of which partition is demanded.'
Issue: Can the proceeds of the policy be divided among the heirs?
Held: No. Petition dismissed.
The proceeds of the life-insurance policy belong exclusively to the defendant as his individual and separate property. That the proceeds of an insurance policy belong exclusively to the beneficiary and not to the estate of the person whose life was insured, and that such proceeds are the separate and individual property of the beneficiary, and not of the heirs of the person whose life was insured, is the doctrine in America. The doctrine is embedded in the Code of Commerce where:
“The amount which the underwriter must deliver to the person insured, in fulfillment of the contract, shall be the property of the latter, even against the claims of the legitimate heirs or creditors of any kind whatsoever of the person who effected the insurance in favor of the former.”
The plaintiffs invoked Article 1035 of the Civil Code, where it reads:
“An heir by force of law surviving with others of the same character to a succession must bring into the hereditary estate the property or securities he may have received from the deceased during the life of the same, by way of dowry, gift, or for any good consideration, in order to compute it in fixing the legal portions and in the account of the division.”
They also invoked Article 819. This article provides that "gifts made to children which are not betterments shall be considered as part of their legal portion."
The court didn’t agree because the contract of life insurance is a special contract and the destination of the proceeds is determined by special laws which deal exclusively with that subject. The Civil Code has no provisions which relate directly and specifically to life- insurance contracts or to the destination of life insurance proceeds. That was under the Code of Commerce.
The plaintiffs claim that the property repurchased with the insurance proceeds belongs to the heirs in common and not to the defendant alone. This wasn’t agreed upon by the court unless the facts appeared that Andres acted as he did with the intention that the other heirs should enjoy with him the ownership of the estate.