The purpose of the inheritance system is to protect the interest of heirs by enabling those with a specific personal relationship with the decedent to acquire the decedent*s estate after the death of the decedent. It is explicitly provided in Articles 1147 and 1148 of the Civil Code that inheritance begins with the death of the decedent and that unless it is otherwise provided in the Civil Code, an heir assumes at the moment the inheritance begins all rights and obligations pertaining to the decedent*s estate, excluding those rights and obligations belonging exclusively to the decedent. In the event of infringement of the right of inheritance, the heir is entitled to claim restitution under the law. To enable the heir to claim restitution in case of encroachment upon his right of inheritance, the Civil Code, by setting forth in Paragraph 1 of Article 1146 that "in the event of infringement of the right of inheritance, the injured party or his statutory agent is entitled to claim restitution," requires that the heir only needs to prove that he is a true heir, without the necessity of proving one by one his actual rights to the estate of inheritance. Furthermore, to put a limitation of prescription on the claim for restitution of the right of inheritance, the Code provides in Paragraph 2 of the same Article that "such claim for restitution is extinguished if not exercised within two years from the date of discovering such infringement," and that "the same rule applies where ten years has elapsed from the time the inheritance begins." The provisions have thus created a system of claim for restitution of the right of inheritance distinguishable from the right of claim for return of things.
Whether the right of inheritance has been encroached upon must be determined by the fact of whether or not there is, after the occurrence of the cause of inheritance, a challenge from another person to the heir*s status as such, whereby the heir is deprived of the possession, management or disposal of the estate of inheritance. Insofar as a person with no right of inheritance who, at the time of or after the inheritance begins, declares himself to be a true heir and objects to the right of inheritance of another co-heir, thereby preventing such co-heir from taking possession or exercising management and disposal of the estate of inheritance, the act per se constitutes an infringement of the right of inheritance. It is not limited to the situation where a self-declared heir exercises rights to the estate at the time the inheritance begins. It should be noted that the right to claim restitution of the inheritance and the right to claim return of individual things are separate and independent, but concurrent, rights of the true heir. The Supreme Court*s Precedent T.T. 592 (Supreme Court, 1964) holds: "The acquisition of a property right by reason of inheritance is based on operation of law. Once inheritance begins, all rights and obligations pertaining to the decedent*s estate pass to the heir, without the need for the heir to make any manifestation of his intention to inherit. Hence, a person who declares himself to be an heir and thereby exercises right to the estate may be considered to have infringed upon the right of inheritance only if such facts existed at the time the inheritance began. If the facts of infringement occurred after the inheritance began, what is injured is the right already acquired by the heir, in which case Article 1146 of the Civil Code is inapplicable." In essence, the decision is meant to explain that a person who declares himself to be an heir and thereby exercises right to the estate may be considered to have committed one of the types of infringement of the right of inheritance only if there existed at the time of death of the decedent facts of encroachment upon the status of the heir. If there was no dispute among the heirs over the status of each one as an heir at the time of death of the decedent, but thereafter an infringement upon the estate occurs, what is injured is the right already acquired by the heir rather than the right of inheritance. Accordingly, the provision of Article 1146 of the Civil Code with respect to claim for restitution of inheritance is inapplicable. To this extent, the Precedent cited has added no restriction not prescribed by law, and is thus not in conflict with the Constitution.