Maramag vs De Guzman (G.R. No. 181132 June 5, 2009)

Heirs of Loreto C. Maramag vs De Guzman
G.R. No. 181132 June 5, 2009

Facts: The case stems from a petition filed against respondents with the Regional Trial Court, Branch 29, for revocation and/or reduction of insurance proceeds for being void and/or inofficious, with prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction.  The petition alleged that: (1) petitioners were the legitimate wife and children of Loreto Maramag (Loreto), while respondents were Loreto’s illegitimate family; (2) Eva de Guzman Maramag (Eva) was a concubine of Loreto and a suspect in the killing of the latter, thus, she is disqualified to receive any proceeds from his insurance policies from Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd. (Insular) and Great Pacific Life Assurance Corporation (Grepalife); (3) the illegitimate children of Loreto, Odessa, Karl Brian, and Trisha Angelie were entitled only to one-half of the legitime of the legitimate children, thus, the proceeds released to Odessa and those to be released to Karl Brian and Trisha Angelie were inofficious and should be reduced; and (4) petitioners could not be deprived of their legitimes, which should be satisfied first. In answer, Insular admitted that Loreto misrepresented Eva as his legitimate wife and Odessa, Karl Brian, and Trisha Angelie as his legitimate children, and that they filed their claims for the insurance proceeds of the insurance policies; that when it ascertained that Eva was not the legal wife of Loreto, it disqualified her as a beneficiary and divided the proceeds among Odessa, Karl Brian, and Trisha Angelie, as the remaining designated beneficiaries; and that it released Odessas share as she was of age, but withheld the release of the shares of minors Karl Brian and Trisha Angelie pending submission of letters of guardianship. Insular alleged that the complaint or petition failed to state a cause of action insofar as it sought to declare as void the designation of Eva as beneficiary, because Loreto revoked her designation as such in Policy No. A001544070 and it disqualified her in Policy No. A001693029; and insofar as it sought to declare as inofficious the shares of Odessa, Karl Brian, and Trisha Angelie, considering that no settlement of Loreto’s estate had been filed nor had the respective shares of the heirs been determined. Insular further claimed that it was bound to honor the insurance policies designating the children of Loreto with Eva as beneficiaries pursuant to Section 53 of the Insurance Code.

Issue: Whether or not petitioners as legitimate family are entitled to the proceeds of Loreto’s insurance policies.

Held: No. It is evident from the face of the complaint that petitioners are not entitled to a favorable judgment in light of Article 2011 of the Civil Code which expressly provides that insurance contracts shall be governed by special laws, i.e., the Insurance Code. Section 53 of the Insurance Code states

SECTION 53. The insurance proceeds shall be applied exclusively to the proper interest of the person in whose name or for whose benefit it is made unless otherwise specified in the policy.

Pursuant thereto, it is obvious that the only persons entitled to claim the insurance proceeds are either the insured, if still alive; or the beneficiary, if the insured is already deceased, upon the maturation of the policy. The exception to this rule is a situation where the insurance contract was intended to benefit third persons who are not parties to the same in the form of favorable stipulations or indemnity. In such a case, third parties may directly sue and claim from the insurer.

Petitioners are third parties to the insurance contracts with Insular and Grepalife and, thus, are not entitled to the proceeds thereof. Accordingly, respondents Insular and Grepalife have no legal obligation to turn over the insurance proceeds to petitioners. The revocation of Eva as a beneficiary in one policy and her disqualification as such in another are of no moment considering that the designation of the illegitimate children as beneficiaries in Loreto’s insurance policies remains valid. Because no legal proscription exists in naming as beneficiaries the children of illicit relationships by the insured, the shares of Eva in the insurance proceeds, whether forfeited by the court in view of the prohibition on donations under Article 739 of the Civil Code or by the insurers themselves for reasons based on the insurance contracts, must be awarded to the said illegitimate children, the designated beneficiaries, to the exclusion of petitioners. It is only in cases where the insured has not designated any beneficiary, or when the designated beneficiary is disqualified by law to receive the proceeds, that the insurance policy proceeds shall redound to the benefit of the estate of the insured.

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