Verbal will is invalid


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
Before my father died, he told me that I would get more than twice the inheritance that my brother will get. After he passed away, I brought this up with  my brother. He told me that this was not valid since our late father did not execute any will to that effect. Is he correct?
Sincerely yours,

Dear Russel,
Article 804 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states that “[e]very will must be in writing and executed in a language or dialect known to the testator.”

In the case of TEODORO CANEDA, et al. vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS and WILLIAM CABRERA, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Mateo Caballero (G.R. No. 103554, May 28, 1993), the Supreme Court, through former Associate Justice Florenz Regalado, held:

“Under the Civil Code, there are two kinds of wills which a testator may execute. The first kind is the ordinary or attested will, the execution of which is governed by Articles 804 to 809 of the code. Article 805 requires that:

Art. 805. Every will, other than a holographic will, must be subscribed at the end thereof by the testator himself or by the testator’s name written by some other person in his presence, and by his express direction, and attested and subscribed by three or more credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of one another.

The testator or the person requested by him to write his name and the instrumental witnesses of the will, shall also sign, as aforesaid, each and every page thereof, except the last, on the left margin, and all the pages shall be numbered correlatively in letters placed on the upper part of each page.

The attestation should state the number of pages used upon which the will is written, and the fact that the testator signed the will and every page thereof, or caused some other person to write his name, under his express direction, in the presence of the instrumental witnesses, and that the latter witnessed and signed the will and all the pages thereof in the presence of the testator and of one another.

If the attestation clause is in a language not known to the witness, it shall be interpreted to them.

“In addition, the ordinary will must be acknowledged before a notary public by a testator and the attesting witness. Hence it is likewise known as notarial will. Where the attestator is deaf or deaf-mute, Article 807 requires that he must personally read the will, if able to do so. Otherwise, he should designate two persons who would read the will and communicate its contents to him in a practicable manner. On the other hand, if the testator is blind, the will should be read to him twice; once, by anyone of the witnesses thereto, and then again, by the notary public before whom it is acknowledged.

“The other kind of will is the holographic will, which Article 810 defines as one that is entirely written, dated and signed by the testator himself. This kind of will, unlike the ordinary type, requires no attestation by witnesses. A common requirement in both kinds of will is that they should be in writing and must have been executed in a language or dialect known to the testator.”

It is clear from the aforementioned that “verbal wills” are not recognized in the laws of our country, and that wills must be written and comply with the formalities required by law.

That being the case, the fact of the matter is that your father died intestate or without a will and as such, you and your brother will inherit in equal shares as provided for under Article 980 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, which states: “The children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares.”

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


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