In this post, we shall tackle what is reprobate of will. The provisions of the Philippine law involving cases of foreign wills are Article 816 and 817 in relation to Article 819 of the Civil Code of the Philippines or Republic Act no. 386, among others.
In cases where an alien or foreigner abroad executes a will in accordance with the formalities and of the country in which he or she resides, it is governed by the provisions of Article 816 as well as in cases where said alien executes the will in accordance with the formalities and in conformity with those which the Civil Code prescribes.
Article 816 of the said law, it states that:
“The will of an alien who is abroad produces effect in the Philippines if made with the formalities prescribed by the law of the place in which he resides, or according to the formalities observed in his country, or in conformity with those which this Code prescribes.”Article 816, Civil Code
The above quoted provision exhibits that capability of the Philippine law to recognize foreign statute in terms of the administration of the estate of an alien who resides abroad. At the same time, it clarifies one aspect of the conflict of laws between international laws with regards to the implementation of last will and testaments between different citizenry.
What is reprobate of will?
Wills proved and allowed in a foreign country, according to the laws of such country, may be allowed, filed, and recorded by the proper Court of First Instance in the Philippines.Section 1, Rule 77, Rules of Court Reprobate is the process of reconfirming and reaffirming a last will and testament that has already been admitted to probate and allowed in another country.
Regardless of whether the testator in this case was a Filipino or an alien, in this case, he executed a will abroad utilizing the formalities for doing so in accordance with the laws of the State where he currently resides. Then, following the testator’s demise, such will has been probated and admitted abroad. The heirs now want the will to be reprobated here in the Philippines, to confirm and authenticate it anew.
In the case of Gaspi vs. Pacis-Trinidad,G.R. No. 229010, November 23, 2020 the Supreme Court held that the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Code cannot be applied in determining the extrinsic validity of an alien’s last will and testament.
It is important to emphasize that a will’s intrinsic validity refers to the legality of its provisions, whilst its extrinsic legitimacy refers to the authenticity of the document and the fact that the decedent has duly executed it in accordance with the forms and solemnities required by law. There are numerous areas where the rules of succession, inheritance, and estate administration differ significantly amongst different countries.
Gaspi vs. Pacis-Trinidad
Going back to the case, the petitioner was appointed as the executor of Luz Gaspe Lipson’s last will and testament. However, the latter was a naturalized American Citizen and the property involved is situated in the Philippines.
The petition to probate the said will was first filed in the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City where the said court dismissed the petition citing that the decedent Lipson was an American citizen and thus his national law must govern, and that her will must be probated in the United States and not in the Philippines.
The Respondent Judge was asked by the Supreme Court to comment on the said decision and the subsequent denial of the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration anchored in the previously decided case of Palaganas vs. PalaganasG.R. No. 169144, January 26, 2011
The Respondent Judge’s answer was based on the nationality principle embodied under Article 15 and she further states that the reliance of the petitioner on the Palaganas case was misplaced because the provision of the law applied in the said case was Article 816 while she claims that the proper and applicable law is Article 817 [Civil Code], which states that:
“A will made in the Philippines by a citizen or subject of another country, which is executed in accordance with the law of the country of which he is a citizen or subject, and which might be proved and allowed by the law of his own country, shall have the same effect as if executed according to the laws of the Philippines.”Article 817, Civil Code
The determination of the extrinsic validity of a last will and testament is the first issue that must be decided in the probate of wills. Since the Philippine courts do not automatically take judicial notice of foreign laws, it is logical and reasonable to assume that the law to be applied is the law of the forum or the Philippine law.
In view therefore, applying the Philippine law, Article 17 of the Civil Code provides that, “The forms and solemnities of contracts, wills and other public instruments shall be governed by the laws of the country in which they are executed.”Article 17, Civil Code By merely applying this provision of law it can be established that the nationality principle cannot be used as basis to dismiss the petition to probate Lipson’s will.
Granting without admitting that the nationality principle would apply to the said case, it is not tantamount to lack of jurisdiction of the Philippine Courts to probate foreign wills. Article 817 does not preclude the authority and jurisdiction of the Philippine Courts in the probate of wills executed in accordance with the laws of the foreign country. In fact, it expressly provides that the said will is to be treated “as if it was executed according to the laws of the Philippines.”
Both the provision of Article 816 and 817 admits the recognition of the foreign laws by the law of the forum. It is further reinforced by the provisions under Article 16 and 17 which provides for an express mention of the laws applicable in cases of last will and testament with the subject property situated in the country.
Under the Philippine law, in order for a personal or a real property to transfer from testator to the heir, it must be probated. Similarly, in cases where the will has already been probated in the foreign country, where the decedent executed the same in accordance with the law of that country or in conformity of those which the Civil Code prescribes, the same must still be probated by the Philippine Courts.
As referred to above, this is called reprobate of will, which is stated under Rule 77 of the Rules of Court. Section of the said rules provides that:
“Wills proved outside the Philippines may be allowed here – Will approved and allowed in a foreign country, according to the laws of such country, may be allowed, filed and recorded by the proper Court of First Instance in the Philippines.”Supra.
The process of reprobation is usually utilized in cases where the subject of the last will and testament are located in different countries. Thereby creating clashes of applicable laws and jurisdictions.
PCIB vs. Escolin
The Supreme Court provides in Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank vs. Escolin, 56 SCRA 266G.R. Nos. L-27860 and L-27896 March 29, 1974 that: “The necessity of presenting evidence on the foreign laws upon which the probate in the foreign country is based is impelled by the fact that our courts cannot take judicial notice of them.”Ibid.
De Perez vs. Tolete
- The due execution of the will in accordance with the foreign laws;Ibid.
- The testator has its domicile in the foreign country and not in the Philippines;Ibid.
- The will has been admitted to probate in such country;Ibid.
- The fact that the foreign tribunal is a probate court; andIbid.
- The laws of a foreign country on procedure and allowance of wills.Ibid.
If the above-enumerated evidence has been successfully provided in accordance with the Philippine rules of evidence, the will can then be allowed in the Philippines, and shall have the same effect as if it has been originally proved and allowed in the country. The rule on allowance enshrined in Rule 77 of the Rules of Court, clearly do not require any proof of prior probate of a foreign will on the other country where it was executed.
However, it must be kept in mind that our laws do not require that the foreign will and testaments made abroad in accordance with the formalities prescribed by the law of the place in which an alien or a naturalized citizen resides, must first be probated in the foreign country before being reprobated in the Philippines for it to take effect.
It is sufficient that the will be made in accordance with the law of the country where it was executed or that it complies with the formalities observed thereto or in conformity with those which the Civil Code prescribes.
Say for example an inhabitant of a foreign country executes a will involving any real property in the Philippines, the Civil Code provides that the law applicable in the administration of the testament will be the Philippine law and the Regional Trial Court of the province where the estate is located shall have the jurisdiction to probate the said will.
The Philippine laws do not refuse recognizance of the probate of wills done abroad. A foreign will can and will be given legal effects in our jurisdiction provided that it was executed in accordance with the provision of our laws.
Palaganas vs. Palaganas
The Supreme Court in the case of Palaganas vs. PalaganasSupra. ruled that the will of the decedent, Ruperta C Palaganas need not be probated first and allowed by the Court of California before admitting it to the courts in the Philippines.
However, although our laws do not require such step, it does not prohibit the will from undergoing of the same process. This is why the Philippine laws provide for the process of reprobate, where it is basically the acknowledgement of the local courts of the findings and decisions of the foreign probate courts, provided that the matter can be established.
The Supreme Court further emphasized the impracticality in case that the contention of the nephews of the decedent Ruperta be upheld. In such a situation where the instituted heirs do not have the means to go abroad for the probate of the will, it is equivalent to the law depriving them of their inheritance, since it is expressly provided in our laws that no will shall pass either real or personal property unless and until said will has been proved and allowed by the proper court.
In view of the discussion above, the Supreme Court has ruled that the use of the national law of a decedent in a probate of a will must apply as regards only to the intrinsic validity; and therefore, it will not necessarily determine the extrinsic validity of the said will and testament.
Although, the foreign law must be submitted to the local courts in the country to ensure that the former may be applied. This is by virtue of the doctrine of processual presumption or that the foreign law must be properly pleaded and proved before is presumed to be the same as our local or domestic or internal law.
What is processual presumption?
The Doctrine of Processual Presumption states that the Foreign Law is the same as the Philippine Law in relation to a specific case unless there is proof that such Foreign Law is distinct and dissimilar from the Philippine law relating to the same subject matter.
Thus, when invoking a foreign law, it must be proven or established as a fact according to evidence rules. Otherwise, processual presumption will apply, treating the Foreign Law the same as the Philippine Law in terms of the subject matter in dispute.
Both the provisions of Article 816 and 817 recognize the doctrine of processual presumption and nowhere in the said provisions can it be found the prohibition of the deprivation of jurisdiction of the local courts of the Philippines to process the probate and the reprobate of the will and testaments executed outside the country.
The main difference between the aforesaid provisions of the law is that, in Article 816, it mainly talks about the compliance of the will and testament to be executed with the formalities and solemnities prescribed by the law of the place in which he or she resides or in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code.It provides for the extrinsic validity of the will in terms of its form.
On the other hand, Article 817, explains the effect of a will and testament that has been probated in the country where it has been executed other than the Philippines. It further provides for the requirement of pleading the foreign law in our local courts for it to take cognizance of the findings and decision of the foreign deciding body.
Another point of comparison between the two provisions are the active parties. For Article 816, the will must be executed by an alien or a naturalized citizen who is abroad. In Article 817, the will must be made by any citizen or any subject of another country in the Philippines. Nevertheless, it both provides for the recognition of the Philippine Courts of foreign laws once pleaded and proved within its jurisdiction.