Saturday, January 25, 2014

Probate of wills executed by foreigners abroad. allowed the Rules of Court

"Our laws do not prohibit the probate of wills executed by foreigners abroad although the same have not as yet been probated and allowed in the countries of their execution. A foreign will can be given legal effects in our jurisdiction. Article 816 of the Civil Code states that the will of an alien who is abroad produces effect in the Philippines if made in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law of the place where he resides, or according to the formalities observed in his country.

In this connection, Section 1, Rule 73 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that if the decedent is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the RTC of the province where he has an estate may take cognizance of the settlement of such estate. Sections 1 and 2 of Rule 76 further state that the executor, devisee, or legatee named in the will, or any other person interested in the estate, may, at any time after the death of the testator, petition the court having jurisdiction
to have the will allowed, whether the same be in his possession or not, or is lost or destroyed.

Our rules require merely that the petition for the allowance of a will must show, so far as known to the petitioner: (a) the jurisdictional facts; (b) the names, ages, and residences of the heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator or decedent; (c) the probable value and character of the property of the estate; (d) the name of the person for whom letters are prayed, and (e) if the will has not been delivered to the court, the name of the person having custody of it. Jurisdictional facts refer to the fact of death of the decedent, his residence at the  time of his death in the province where the probate court is sitting, or if he is an inhabitant of a foreign country, the estate he left in such province. The rules do not require proof that the foreign will has already been allowed and probated in the country of its execution.

In insisting that Ruperta’s will should have been first probated and allowed by the court of California, petitioners Manuel and Benjamin obviously have in mind the procedure for the reprobate of will before
admitting it here. But, reprobate or re-authentication of a will already probated and allowed in a foreign country is different from that probate where the will is presented for the first time before a competent court.

Reprobate is specifically governed by Rule 77 of the Rules of Court. Contrary to petitioners’ stance, since this latter rule applies only to reprobate of a will, it cannot be made to apply to the present case. In reprobate, the local court acknowledges as binding the findings of the foreign probate court provided its jurisdiction over the matter can be established.

Besides, petitioners’ stand is fraught with impracticality. If the instituted heirs do not have the means to go abroad for the probate of the will, it is as good as depriving them outright of their inheritance, since our law requires that no will shall pass either real or personal property unless the will has been proved and allowed by the proper court.

Notably, the assailed RTC order of June 17, 2004, is nothing more than an initial ruling that the court can take cognizance of the petition for probate of Ruperta’s will and that, in the meantime, it was designating Ernesto as special administrator of the estate. The parties have yet to present evidence of the due execution of the will, i.e., the testator’s state of mind at the time of the execution and compliance with the formalities required of wills by the laws of California. This explains the trial court’s directive for Ernesto to submit the duly authenticated copy of Ruperta’s will and the certified copies of the Laws of Succession and Probate of Will of California."

(Abad, J., In Re: In the Matter of the Petition to Approve the Willof Ruperta Palaganas with Prayer for the Appointment of Special Administrator, Manuel Miguel Palaganas and Benjamin Gregorio Palaganas v. Ernesto Palaganas, G.R. No. 169144, January 26, 2011.)