We shall tackle the revocation of last will and testament.
People who have been successful in acquiring and maintaining property throughout their lives want to share the fruits of their labor with those they believe are deserving. Others, most notably parents, wanted to use the creation of a will to ensure the equitable distribution of their estate to their descendants.
They can rest easy knowing that their children will be well cared for after they die. The Philippine government’s adoption of the New Civil Code gave decedents the freedom to distribute their wealth as they saw fit, as long as certain procedures and Statute criteria were followed.
Revocation of Last Will and Testament | A Will is Ambulatory
However, a last will and testament that transfers the testator’s estate to the designated heirs, devisees, or legatees after his or her death does not imply absolute irrevocability. It does not provide an unconditional guarantee that the heirs will receive those specifically mentioned in the will. There are numerous events that can cause the testator’s last will and testament to be changed or amended, which is permitted by law.
Revocation has been practiced since ancient times. An ancient papyrus known as Papyrus Kahun VII was discovered in Egypt. Mery used an imyt-pr (transfer document) to revoke an earlier testamentary disposition granted to his first wife, Iuseneb’s mother, and replace it with one favoring the children of another wife (Logan, 2000 as cited in Van Blerk (2017),Van Blerk (2017), N.J., Aspects of Succession Law in Ancient Egypt with Specific Reference to Testamentary Disposition, University of South Africa, Pretoria. In the Inscription of Nikaure, the testator’s daughter died before him, according to the Inscription of Nikaure. He then made a later testamentary disposition to give his wife the portion that was supposed to go to his deceased daughter.Ibid.
After a will has been probated during the testator’s lifetime, it does not necessarily follow that he cannot change or revoke it.Palacios vs. Palacios, G.R. No. L-12207, December 24, 1959 As provided by Art. 830 of the New Civil Code, there are several ways to revoke a will.
Revocation by implication of law
A will may be revoked by implication of law. This mode of revocation as applied to an entire will is not expressly designated by provisions of a particular statute. Revocation by operation of law implies that the occurrence of change in circumstances from which the statute deemed to be considered a revocation or any acts or situation construed by the Courts to be a revocation irrespective of the intention of the testator.J. Warner Mills, Jr., Revocation of Wills – How Accomplished and the Effect, 6 Dicta 7 
For illustration, the decree of legal separation has the effect of revocation by operation of law the provisions in favor of the offending spouse as indicated in the will of the innocent one.Family Code, Art. 63  Annulled or void ab initio marriages have the effect of revoking testamentary dispositions made by one spouse in favor of another.Ibid., Art. 50 in relation to Art. 43, Family Code
Testamentary dispositions in favor of those enumerated in Art. 1032 of the New Civil Code which is deemed incapable of succeeding by reason of unworthiness can also be revoke. To name a few, these persons include those:
1] who have abandoned their own children or induced their daughter to lead a corrupt life or immoral life;
2] who has been convicted of an attempt against the life of the testator, his or her spouse, descendants, or ascendants; convicted of adultery or concubinage with the spouse of the testator;
3] who by fraud, violence, intimidation, or undue influence should cause the testator to make a will or to change one already made; or
4] those who falsifies or forges a supposed will of the decedent.
Marriage in bad faith
If both spouses of the subsequent marriage who acted in bad faith, the marriage will be void ab initio and testamentary dispositions made by one in favor of the other are revoked by operation of law.Ibid., Art. 45, Family Code
In the case of Nuguid vs. Nuguid,G.R. No. L-23445, June 23, 1966 wherein the main issue centered on whether the institution of one of the sibling of the deceased as the sole, universal heir preterited the compulsory heirs. Art. 854 of the New Civil Code was applied which provides:
“The preterition or omission of one, some, or all of the compulsory heirs in the direct line, whether living at the time of the execution of the will or born after the death of the testator, shall annul the institution of heir; but the devises and legacies shall be valid insofar as they are not inofficious. . .”Art. 854, Civil Code
The deceased left no legitimate or illegitimate descendants but left forced heirs, her parents which in direct ascending line. In the will they are omitted. Hence, they received nothing by the testament depriving them of their legitime but were not expressly disinherited which clearly illustrate preterition.
Revocation by codicil
Another mode of revocation is the execution of another will, codicil or other writing in case of wills.Art. 830, Civil Code In this mode, the testator must unequivocally express his intention to revoke his will by his creation of another will, codicil or non-testamentary document. The law provides that the testator may revoked his will anytime before his death.Ibid., Art. 828, Civil Code
In Macam vs. Gatmaitan,G.R. No. L-42619, March 11, 1937 a codicil is defined as “a written instrument wherein one declares his last will, in order to take from or add something to the will, or clarify the provisions thereof”.Ibid. A codicil has been defined as some addition to or qualification of one’s last will and testament.G.R. No. 40445, Aug. 17, 1934
In the same case, it was emphasized that the exercise of right to make a will, as a voluntary act, has the implication of the right to revoke (partial or total) provided the formalities required by law are complied with. As codicil may be concealed by an interested party if its provision are not in the latter’s favor, the court allowed that the will and codicil may be presented and probated one after the other.
Revocation thorough other writings
With regards to the third premise provided by paragraph 3 of Art. 830 which is revocation through other writings executed as provided in case of wills, it is allowed provided that the formalities prescribe by law are strictly followed.
Revocation of wills outside the Philippines
Furthermore, in connection with Art. 829, the Philippines recognizes revocation done outside the country by a person who does not have domicile in this country if such was made in accordance with the law of the place where the will was made and law of the place in which the testator had his domicile at the time.
Revocation by destruction
Ways of revocation by physically destroying a will are provided in paragraph 3 of Art. 830 to wit:
“By burning, tearing, cancelling, or obliterating the will with the intention of revoking it, by the testator himself, or by some other person in his presence, and by his express direction. If burned, torn, cancelled, or obliterated by some other person, without the express direction of the testator, the will may still be established, and the estateDashboard distributed in accordance therewith, if its contents, and due execution and the fact of its unauthorized destruction, cancellation, or obliteration are established according to the Rules of Court.”Art. 830, par 3, Civil Code
It is clear that the physical act of destruction of a will, does not per se constitute an effective revocation, unless the destruction is coupled with animus revocandi on the part of the testator. It is not imperative that the physical destruction be done by the testator himself.
It may be performed by another person but under the express direction and in the presence of the testator. Of course, it goes without saying that the document destroyed must be the will itself.Maloto vs. CA, G.R. No. 76464, February 29, 1988
In Diaz vs. De Leon,G.R. No. 17714, May 31, 1922 deceased de Leon executed a will wherein in it was teared apart by the servant in the present of the testator and his nurse upon his own instructions. The issue is whether the will was validly revoked.
The Supreme Court ruled that the intention of revoking the will is manifest from the established fact that the testator was anxious to withdraw or change the provisions he had made in his first will. This fact is disclosed by the testator’s own statement to the witnesses.Ibid.
In Lipana vs. Court of First Instance,G.R. No. 47174, June 28, 1940 petitioner filed an application for the probate of a will wherein only a carbon copy of the supposed will of the deceased was provided. Private respondent filed an opposition alleging that as the attached carbon copy in the application, in itself, had not been executed in accordance with the law. The Court ruled:
“It is apparent from the application that what is sought to be admitted to probate is the original of the will. It is alleged therein that the original was in the possession of a third person or that it was either lost or destroyed by some person other than the testatrix. Under section 623 of Act No. 190, if a will is shown to have been torn by some other person without the express direction of the testator, it may be admitted to probate, if its contents, due execution and its unauthorized destruction are established by satisfactory evidence.”Ibid.
Art. 831 of the New Civil Code centered on implied revocation of will which states that, “subsequent wills which do not revoke the previous ones in an express manner, annul only such dispositions in the prior wills as are inconsistent with or contrary to those contained in the later will.”Art. 831, Civil Code
In Merza vs. Porras, the Supreme Court declared that it is a well-established rule that two separate and distinct wills may be probated if one does not revoke the other and provided that the statutory requirements relative to the execution of the wills have been complied with.G.R. No. L-4888, May 25, 1953
There are some presumptions with regards to the revocation of wills that have been accepted in Philippine jurisdiction. In Gago vs. Mamuyac,G.R. No. L-26317, January 29, 1927 petitioner filed a petition for a probation of the last will and testament executed by the late Miguel Mamuyac.
Oppositors presented their opposition alleging that the subject will is a second will of the deceased Mamuyac which was revoked during his lifetime and said to be not the last one executed by the latter. Ruling on the validity of the will, the Supreme Court applying the Doctrine of Presumed Revocation held that:Ibid.
“The law does not require any evidence of the revocation or cancellation of a will to be preserved. It therefore becomes difficult at times to prove the revocation or cancellation of wills. . . Where a will which cannot be found is shown to have been in the possession of the testator, when last seen, the presumption is, in the absence of other competent evidence, that the same was cancelled or destroyed.Ibid.
“The same presumption arises where it is shown that the testator had ready access to the will and it cannot be found after his death. It will not be presumed that such will has been destroyed by any other person without the knowledge or authority of the testator.Ibid.
“The force of the presumption of cancellation or revocation by the testator, while varying greatly, being weak or strong according to the circumstances, is never conclusive, but may be overcome by proof that the will was not destroyed by the testator with intent to revoke it.”Ibid.
Revocation which is relatively dependent
Doctrine of Dependent Relative Revocation is also a presumption recognized in our jurisdiction. In Vda. De Molo vs. Molo,G.R. No. L-2538, September 21, 1951 deceased Marcos Molo executed two wills where in the later will contain a revocation clause expressly revoking the first will. Absence of forced heir, Juana Juan Vda. de Molo was his surviving spouse. The latter filed a petition for the probate of the second will which progressed initially.
However, upon the petition of the oppositors, the lower court rendered a decision denying the probate of the will for failure to prove that the second will was executed in the accordance with the law. Determining if the second will revoke the first will, the Supreme Court citing the case of Samson vs. NavalG.R. No. L-11823, February 11, 1918 ruled that:
“A subsequent will, containing a clause revoking a previous will, having been disallowed, for the reason that it was not executed in conformity with the provisions of section 618 of the Code of Civil Procedure as to the making of wills, cannot produce the effect of annulling the previous will, inasmuch as said revocatory clause is void.”Supra., G.R. No. L-2538, September 21, 1951
Final thoughts | Probate
With regards to the admission of first will for probate, it was decided to wit:
“The rule is established that where the act of destruction is connected with the making of another will so as fairly to raise the inference that the testator meant the revocation of the old to depend upon the efficacy of the new disposition intended to be substituted, the revocation will be conditional and dependent upon the efficacy of the new disposition; and if, for any reason, the new will intended to be made as a substitute is inoperative, the revocation fails and the original will remains in full force.Ibid.
This is the doctrine of dependent relative revocation. The failure of the new testamentary disposition, upon whose validity the revocation depends, is equivalent to the non-fulfillment of a suspensive condition, and hence prevents the revocation of the original will. But a mere intent to make at some time a will in place of that destroyed will not render the destruction conditional. It must appear that the revocation is dependent upon the valid execution of a new will.”Ibid.