My father, a widower, owns several parcels of land. Before he died, he made a last will and testament giving 1/4 of his properties to his two brothers, and another 1/4 to our eldest brother. My other siblings are contesting the will, claiming it is invalid and cannot be given effect because it violates their right to the inheritance. Is this true?
The fact that your father designated the persons who will inherit half of his estate does not render his last will and testament invalid per se. It must be noted that in giving effect to a will, its validity is determined in two aspects, to wit: Extrinsic and intrinsic validity.
Extrinsic validity deals with the form of the will and its due execution, rather than its content. It determines (1) whether the instrument is truly the decedent’s last will; 2) whether it complies with the formalities prescribed by law; 3) whether the testator had testamentary capacity at the time he executed the will; and, 4) whether the testator voluntarily executed the will (Ajero v. Court of Appeals, 236 SCRA 488). These tests will be applied to determine the extrinsic validity of your father’s last will. If it passes the tests, then his will is extrinsically valid. It will be allowed in court, regardless of its content.
The second aspect, which is the intrinsic validity of the will, deals with dispositions stipulated by the testator. It refers to the legality of the provisions of the will for the right granted to a person to designate the person or persons who are to succeed him or her, is not absolute. It is subject to limitations placed by law. For example, a person who has compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate subject to the condition that he or she does not contravene the law on legitime (Art. 842, Civil Code). The law on legitime relevant to the matter at hand in turn states:
“The legitime of legitimate children and descendants consists of one-half of the hereditary estate of the father and of the mother.
The latter may freely dispose of the remaining half, subject to the rights of illegitimate children and of the surviving spouse as hereinafter provided” (Art. 888, Civil Code).
In your case, your father disposed half his estate: one-fourth to his two brothers and another one-fourth to your eldest brother. It is well within his right to do so. The dispositions he made did not impair the legitime of his children for the law reserves only one-half of the estate to them. The remaining half, your father is free to dispose off as he wishes. If at all, the disposition may be questioned if there is a surviving spouse or illegitimate child. Yet, it appears that there is none considering that he is already a widower, and you made no mention of any illegitimate brother and sister.
Taking the foregoing into consideration, it appears that there is nothing in your narration that would cast doubt on the extrinsic and intrinsic validity of your father’s last will. Hence, it can be said that it is valid and may be given effect subject to compliance with the rule on probate of will for the law states that “no will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court” (Article 838, Civil Code).
We hope our opinion sufficiently answered your concern. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org