My aunt died single and without children of her own. Her parents had long died before her. We found out that she left all her pieces of property to a son of her former housemaid whom she raised and sent to school ever since his mother abandoned him. This child, however, was not legally
adopted. Can my aunt validly leave all her pieces of property in a last will and testament to someone who is not related to her? Are there instances when the last will and testament may be invalidated?
One who has no compulsory heirs may dispose by will all of his estate or any part of it in favor of any person having the capacity to succeed (Article 842, Civil Code of the Philippines (CCP)). Since your aunt has no spouse, children or parents when she died, she may freely give all her pieces of property to the son of her former housemaid even if he is not legally adopted.
The dispositions in the last will and testament of your aunt shall not take effect unless it is proved and allowed in accordance with the Rules of Court. This may be done by filing a petition for probate of the last will and testament before the Regional Trial Court of the place where your aunt resides at the time of her death (Section 1, Rule 73, Rules of Court). Once the will has been duly probated and allowed by the court, the dispositions therein will take effect and the estate of your aunt shall pass to the named heir.
There are instances, however, when the last will and testament of a person may be disallowed. These are the following: 1) if the formalities required by law have not been complied with; 2) if the testator was insane, or otherwise mentally incapable of making a will, at the time of its execution; 3) if it was executed through force or under duress, or the influence of fear or threats; 4) if it was procured by undue and improper pressure and influence, on the part of the beneficiary or of some other person; 5) if the signature of the testator was procured by fraud; and 6) if the testator acted by mistake or did not intend that the instrument he signed should be his will at the time of affixing his signature thereto (Article 839, CCP).
If any of the foregoing is present, the last will and testament of your aunt will be disallowed. Hence, the dispositions in her will shall not take effect and her estate will be disposed of according to legal or intestate succession (Article 960, CCP). In such a case, the estate of your aunt shall be given to her relatives or in their default, to the State, in accordance with the rules of succession set forth in the Civil Code of the Philippines (Article 961, CCP).
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts that you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other 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