SUCCESSION – SETTLEMENT OF ESTATE
In Dy Yieng Seangio, et al. v. Hon. Amor Reyes, et al., G.R. No. 140371-72, November 27, 2006, there was a petition for the probate of an alleged holographic will which was denominated as “Kasulatan sa pag-aalis ng mana.” The private respondents moved for the dismissal of the probate proceedings primarily on the ground that the document purporting to be the holographic will of Segundo did not contain any disposition of the estate of the deceased and thus did not meet the definition of a will under Article 783 of the Civil Code. According to private respondents, the will only showed an alleged act of disinheritance by the decedent of his eldest son, Alfredo, and nothing else; that all other compulsory heirs were not named nor instituted as heir, devisee or legatee, hence there was preterition which would result to intestacy. Such being the case, private respondents maintained that while procedurally the court is called upon to rule only on the extrinsic validity of the will, it is not barred from delving into the intrinsic validity of the same, and ordering the dismissal of the petition for probate when on the face of the will it is clear that it contains no testamentary disposition of the property of the decedent.
Petitioners filed their opposition to the motion to dismiss contending that: (1) generally, the authority of the probate court is limited only to a determination of the extrinsic validity of the will; (2) private respondents question the intrinsic and not the extrinsic validity of the will; (3) disinheritance constitutes a disposition of the estate of a decedent; and (4) the rule on preterition did not apply because Segundo’s will did not constitute a universal heir or heirs to the exclusion of one or more compulsory heirs.
The RTC issued an order dismissing the petition for probate proceedings, hence, a petition for certiorari was filed where petitioners argued as follows:
First, respondent judge did not comply with Sections 3 and 4 of the Rule 76 of the Rules of Court which respectively mandate the court to: (a) fix the time and place for proving the will when all concerned may appear to contest the allowance thereof, and cause notice of such time and place to be published three weeks successively previous to the appointed time in a newspaper of general circulation; and (b) cause the mailing of said notice to the heirs, legatee and devisees of the testator Segundo;
Second, the holographic will does not contain any institution of an heir, but rather, as its title clearly states, Kasulatan ng Pag-alis ng Mana, simply contains a disinheritance of a compulsory heir. Thus, there is no preterition in the decedent’s will and the holographic will on its face is not intrinsically void;
Third, the testator intended all his compulsory heirs, petitioners and private respondents alike, with the sole exception of Alfredo, to inherit his estate. None of the compulsory heirs in the direct line of Segundo were preterited in the holographic will since there was no institution of an heir;
Fourth, as it clearly appears from the face of the holographic will that it is both intrinsically and extrinsically valid, respondent judge was mandated to proceed with the hearing of the testate case; and,
Lastly, the continuation of the proceedings in the intestate case will work injustice to petitioners, and will render nugatory the disinheritance of Alfredo.
Now, the critical issue to be determined is whether the document executed by Segundo can be considered as a holographic will.
Held: A holographic will, as provided under Article 810 of the Civil Code, must be entirely written, dated, and signed by the hand of the testator himself. It is subject to no other form, and may be made in or out of the Philippines, and need not be witnessed.
The document, although it may initially come across as a mere disinheritance instrument, conforms to the formalities of a holographic will prescribed by law. It is written, dated and signed by the hand of the testator himself. An intent to dispose mortis causa (Article 783) can be clearly deduced from the terms of the instrument, and while it does not make an affirmative disposition of the latter’s property, the disinheritance of the son nonetheless, is an act of disposition in itself. In other words, the disinheritance results in the disposition of the property of the testator in favor of those who would succeed in the absence of the eldest son.
Moreover, it is a fundamental principle that the intent or the will of the testator, expressed in the form and within the limits prescribed by law, must be recognized as the supreme law in succession. All rules of construction are designed to ascertain and give effect to that intention. It is only when the intention of the testator is contrary to law, morals, or public policy that it cannot be given effect.
Holographic wills, therefore, being usually prepared by one who is not learned in the law should be construed more liberally than the ones drawn by an expert, taking into account the circumstances surrounding the execution of the instrument and the intention of the testator. In this regard, the document, even if captioned as Kasulatan ng Pag-alis ng Mana, was intended by the testator to be his last testamentary act and was executed by him in accordance with law in the form of a holographic will. Unless the will is probated, the disinheritance cannot be given effect.