My aunt who was originally from Marikina City became a US citizen about a decade ago. She still has some pieces of property registered under her name here in the Philippines that we want to settle. She died early this year, and she left a last will and testament that she made abroad. Considering that she was already a US citizen when she died and that she made her last will abroad, do we still need to file any legal action here in the Philippines, so we can settle what she left here? If so, where in the Philippines can we file the necessary legal action? We really hope you can give us advice on this. Thank you!
Your family still needs to file a legal action here in our country in order to make your aunt’s last will enforceable for the purpose of legally settling her pieces of property here. According to Article 838 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, and Rule 75 of the Rules of Court, no will shall pass either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in the proper court. This makes the probate of a last will mandatory before it can have any legal effect.
Considering this, your relative’s last will has to abide by this rule even if she is already a citizen of another country when she made her last will because it involves the settlement of her pieces of property within the jurisdiction of our country.
Regarding the place where to file the probate proceedings for the allowance of her last will, Rule 73 of the Rules of Court provides:
“Section 1.Where estate of deceased persons settled. — If the decedent is an inhabitant of the Philippines at the time of his death, whether a citizen or an alien, his will shall be proved, or letters of administration granted, and his estate settled, in the Court of First Instance in the province in which he resides at the time of his death, and if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the Court of First Instance of any province in which he had estate. The court first taking cognizance of the settlement of the estate of a decedent shall exercise jurisdiction to the exclusion of all other courts. The jurisdiction assumed by a court, so far as it depends on the place of residence of the decedent, or of the location of his estate, shall not be contested in a suit or proceeding, except in an appeal from that court, in the original case, or when the want of jurisdiction appears on the record.” (Emphasis supplied)
Based on this cited provision, the proper venue for the filing of the petition for probate of your aunt’s last will should be before the Regional Trial Court of the place where she had a property. That court will have the jurisdiction in the probate proceedings to determine whether her last will should be allowed or disallowed. This is required before her last will can have any legal effect on the settlement of the pieces of property she left here in the Philippines.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
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.