Civil Law

Succession- Preterition, Holographic Will

Relevant provisions and Case digests

Art. 804. Every will must be in writing and executed in a language or dialect known to the testator.

Art. 810. A person may execute a holographic will which 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.

Art. 812. In holographic wills, the dispositions of the testator written below his signature must be dated and signed by him in order to make them valid as testamentary dispositions. (n)

Art. 813. When a number of dispositions appearing in a holographic will are signed without being dated, and the last disposition has a signature and a date, such date validates the dispositions preceding it, whatever be the time of prior dispositions.

Art. 854. The preterition or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of heir; but the devises and legacies shall be valid insofar as they are not inofficious.

If the omitted compulsory heirs should die before the testator, the institution shall be effectual, without prejudice to the right of representation. (814a)

Art. 855. The share of a child or descendant omitted in a will must first be taken from the part of the estate not disposed of by the will, if any; if that is not sufficient, so much as may be necessary must be taken proportionally from the shares of the other compulsory heirs.

Art. 906. Any compulsory heir to whom the testator has left by any title less than the legitime belonging to him may demand that the same be fully satisfied.

Art. 918. Disinheritance without a specification of the cause, or for a cause the truth of which, if contradicted, is not proved, or which is not one of those set forth in this Code, shall annul the institution of heirs insofar as it may prejudice the person disinherited; but the devises and legacies and other testamentary dispositions shall be valid to such extent as will not impair the legitime.

SEANGIO v. REYES

G.R. Nos. 140371-72   November 27, 2006

FACTS:

Private respondents filed a petition for the settlement of the intestate estate of the late Segundo Seangio, praying for the appointment of private respondent Elisa D. Seangio–Santos as special administrator and guardian ad litem of petitioner Dy Yieng Seangio. Petitioners, all surnamed Seangio, opposed the petition, contending, among others, that Segundo left a holographic will, disinheriting one of the private respondents, Alfredo Seangio, for cause.

Subsequently, a petition for the probate of the holographic will of Segundo was filed by petitioners.

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 does not contain any disposition of the estate of the deceased and thus does not meet the definition of a will under Article 783 of the Civil Code.

According to private respondents, the will only shows 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 is 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.

The RTC dismissed the petition for probate proceedings.

ISSUE:

  1. Whether or not the document executed by Segundo can be considered as a holographic will.
  2. Whether or not there was preterition.

RULING:

1.

Segundo’s 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 Segundo himself. An intent to dispose mortis causa 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 Alfredo, nonetheless, is an act of disposition in itself.

In other words, the disinheritance results in the disposition of the property of the testator Segundo in favor of those who would succeed in the absence of Alfredo.

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, as illustrated in the present case, 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 Court is convinced that the document, even if captioned as Kasulatan ng Pag-Aalis ng Mana, was intended by Segundo 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.

2.

With regard to the issue on preterition, the Court believes that the compulsory heirs in the direct line were not preterited in the will. It was, in the Court’s opinion, Segundo’s last expression to bequeath his estate to all his compulsory heirs, with the sole exception of Alfredo. Also, Segundo did not institute an heir to the exclusion of his other compulsory heirs. The mere mention of the name of one of the petitioners, Virginia, in the document did not operate to institute her as the universal heir. Her name was included plainly as a witness to the altercation between Segundo and his son, Alfredo.

Considering that the questioned document is Segundo’s holographic will, and that the law favors testacy over intestacy, the probate of the will cannot be dispensed with. Article 838 of the Civil Code provides that no will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court. Thus, unless the will is probated, the right of a person to dispose of his property may be rendered nugatory.

In view of the foregoing, the trial court, therefore, should have allowed the holographic will to be probated. It is settled that testate proceedings for the settlement of the estate of the decedent take precedence over intestate proceedings for the same purpose.

NUGUID v. NUGUID

G.R. No. L-23445   June 23, 1966

FACTS:

Rosario Nuguid died single, without descendants, legitimate or illegitimate. Surviving her were her legitimate parents and six (6) brothers and sisters.

Petitioner’s sister Remedios filed a holographic will allegedly executed by Rosario Nuguid some 11 years before her demise. Petitioner prayed that said will be admitted to probate and that letters of administration with the will annexed be issued to her.

The legitimate parents of the deceased entered their opposition to the probate of her will, on the ground that by the institution of petitioner Remedios Nuguid as universal heir of the deceased, oppositors — who are compulsory heirs of the deceased in the direct ascending line — were illegally preterited and that in consequence the institution is void.

The court held that “the will in question is a complete nullity and will perforce create intestacy of the estate of the deceased Rosario Nuguid” and dismissed the petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there was preterition.

RULING:

The deceased Rosario Nuguid left no descendants, legitimate or illegitimate. But she left forced heirs in the direct ascending line her parents. And the will completely omits both of them: They thus received nothing by the testament; tacitly, they were deprived of their legitime; neither were they expressly disinherited. This is a clear case of preterition.

Such preterition in the words of Manresa “anulara siempre la institucion de heredero, dando caracter absoluto a este ordenamiento referring to the mandate of Article 814, now 854 of the Civil Code. The one-sentence will here institutes petitioner as the sole, universal heir — nothing more. No specific legacies or bequests are therein provided for. It is in this posture that we say that the nullity is complete.

Preterition “consists in the omission in the testator’s will of the forced heirs or anyone of them, either because they are not mentioned therein, or, though mentioned, they are neither instituted as heirs nor are expressly disinherited.”

Disinheritance, in turn, “is a testamentary disposition depriving any compulsory heir of his share in the legitime for a cause authorized by law. ” In Manresa’s own words: “La privacion expresa de la legitima constituye la desheredacion. La privacion tacita de la misma se denomina pretericion.” Sanchez Roman emphasizes the distinction by stating that disinheritance “es siempre voluntaria“; preterition, upon the other hand, is presumed to be “involuntaria“.

Express as disinheritance should be, the same must be supported by a legal cause specified in the will itself.

The will here does not explicitly disinherit the testatrix’s parents, the forced heirs. It simply omits their names altogether. Said will rather than be labeled ineffective disinheritance is clearly one in which the said forced heirs suffer from preterition.

On top of this is the fact that the effects flowing from preterition are totally different from those of disinheritance. Preterition under Article 854 of the Civil Code, we repeat, “shall annul the institution of heir”. This annulment is in toto, unless in the will there are, in addition, testamentary dispositions in the form of devises or legacies. In ineffective disinheritance under Article 918 of the same Code, such disinheritance shall also “annul the institution of heirs”, put only “insofar as it may prejudice the person disinherited”, which last phrase was omitted in the case of preterition.

In disinheritance the nullity is limited to that portion of the estate of which the disinherited heirs have been illegally deprived.

Considering, however, that the will before us solely provides for the institution of petitioner as universal heir, and nothing more, the result is the same. The entire will is null.

AZNAR v. DUNCAN

G.R. No. L-24365    June 30, 1966

FACTS:

Edward Christensen, a citizen of California with domicile in the Philippines, died leaving a will. The will was admitted to probate.

The CFI issued an order approving the project of partition submitted by the executor, wherein the properties of the estate were divided equally between Maria Lucy Christensen Duncan, and , whom the testator had expressly recognized in his will as his natural daughter and Helen Garcia, who had been judicially declared as such after his death. The said order was based on the proposition that since Helen Garcia had been preterited in the will the institution of Lucy Duncan as heir was annulled, and hence the properties passed to both of them as if the deceased had died intestate, saving only the legacies left in favor of certain other persons, which legacies have been duly approved by the lower court and distributed to the legatees.

The trial court ruled that there has been preterition of Helen Garcia, a compulsory heir in the direct line, resulting in the annulment of the institution of heir.

On the other hand, appellant contends that this is not a case of preterition, but is governed by Article 906 of the Civil Code, which says: “Any compulsory heir to whom the testator has left by any title less than the legitime belonging to him may demand that the same be fully satisfied.”

Appellant also suggests that considering the provisions of the will whereby the testator expressly denied his relationship with Helen Garcia, but left to her a legacy nevertheless although less than the amount of her legitime, she was in effect defectively disinherited within the meaning of Article 918.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Helen Garcia is a compulsory heir in the direct line.

RULING:

Very clearly from the provisions of the testator’s will, he refused to acknowledge Helen Garcia as his natural daughter, and limited her share to a legacy.

In the will of the deceased Edward E. Christensen Helen Garcia is not mentioned as an heir — indeed her status as such is denied — but is given a legacy of P3,600.00.

According to Manresa, where the testator left to one who was a forced heir a legacy worth less than the legitime, but without referring to the legatee as an heir or even as a relative, and willed the rest of the estate to other persons, Article 815 applied, and the heir could not ask that the institution of heirs be annulled entirely, but only that the legitime be completed.

The contention of Lucy Duncan that all such dividends pertain to her according to the terms of the will cannot be sustained, for it would in effect impair the right of ownership of Helen Garcia with respect to her legitime.

Wherefore, the order of the trial court, approving the project of partition as submitted by the executor-appellee, is hereby set aside; and the case is remanded with instructions to partition the hereditary estate anew as indicated in this decision, that is, by giving to Maria Helen Christensen Garcia no more than the portion corresponding to her as legitime, equivalent to one-fourth (1/4) of the hereditary estate, after deducting all debts and charges, which shall not include those imposed in the will of the decedent, in accordance with Article 908 of the Civil Code.

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