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Ensuring a Smooth Transition: How to Determine the Validity of Wills in the Philippines

Determining the validity of a will is crucial in the Philippines to ensure a smooth transition of assets and properties according to the wishes of the deceased. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the key factors involved in evaluating the validity of a will. By following these guidelines, individuals can navigate the legal requirements and ensure a seamless process.

Legal Age and Capacity

To ensure the validity of a will, the testator must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind when making the will. This requirement ensures that the testator has the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions. Mental capacity is crucial for making informed decisions and ensuring that the testator's wishes are accurately reflected in the will.

Proper Form

The will must be in writing and can be handwritten, typewritten, or printed. Handwritten wills must be signed by the testator at the end and on each page, while typewritten or printed wills must be signed at the end, preferably on each page, and on the left margin of the pages except the last. Adhering to these formalities ensures that the will is properly executed and reduces the risk of disputes regarding its validity.


To validate a will, it must be attested and signed by at least three credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and each other. These witnesses must be of legal age, meaning they must be at least 18 years old, and competent to testify in court. Witness signatures serve as evidence that the testator willingly made the will and that it accurately reflects their intentions.

Testamentary Capacity

The testator must have testamentary capacity, meaning they understand the nature and consequences of making a will. They should be aware of the extent of their properties and assets and comprehend the distribution they are making through the will. This requirement ensures that the testator is making informed decisions and prevents situations where the testator may be easily influenced or coerced.

Absence of Undue Influence or Fraud

To ensure the validity of a will, it must be made voluntarily and without any undue influence, fraud, or coercion from any person. If there is evidence of manipulation or pressure exerted on the testator that affected their decisions in making the will, its validity may be called into question. This requirement protects the testator's autonomy and ensures that they will accurately represent their true intentions.

Revocation of Previous Wills

If there are previous wills, the most recent will is considered valid. It is important to determine whether any earlier wills have been properly revoked or if the new will is intended to replace the previous ones. Proper revocation of previous wills ensures that the testator's most recent intentions are respected and implemented.

Probate Proceedings

After the death of the testator, the will must undergo probate proceedings in court. Probate is the legal process where the court evaluates the validity of the will and ensures that all legal requirements have been met. During this process, the will and supporting documents are submitted to the court, interested parties are notified, and evidence is presented to establish the validity of the will. Probate proceedings provide a legal framework for resolving any disputes and ensure that the testator's wishes are properly executed.


In conclusion, validating a will in the Philippines involves considering legal age and capacity, proper form, witnesses, testamentary capacity, absence of undue influence or fraud, revocation of previous wills, and compliance with the probate process. Following these guidelines guarantees that the testator's wishes are honored, assets and properties are smoothly transferred, and potential disputes are minimized. Consulting a qualified legal professional is essential to navigate the legal requirements and address any challenges or changes in the law. By taking these steps and seeking proper advice, individuals can have peace of mind knowing that their wills are valid and their estate planning is secure.

A Basic Discussion On Last Will And Testament

It cannot be denied that the settlement of a deceased person's estate can lead to bitter litigations if the relatives cannot see eye to eye. This is why preparing a last will and testament is a good option to prevent conflicts. A last will and testament refers to an act whereby an individual is permitted, following the legal procedures, to control a certain degree the disposition of his/her estate. The will serves as a document whereby the testator disposes of his/her estate or property, which will take effect upon his/her death. The testator refers to the deceased person who created the will. A legatee refers to the person whom the testator gives the personal property through a will while the devisee is the person who is given real property in a will. The person who is entrusted to implement the provisions is referred to as the executor.

Inheritance versus Will

A will differs from inheritance as the latter refers to "all the property, rights and obligations of a person who are not extinguished by his death" according to Civil Code, Art. 776. The will determines the disposition of the inheritance.

A document may be entitled a last will and testament but when it provides that all properties need to be transferred during the testator's lifetime, it is not considered a will because a will takes effect upon the testator's death. A disposition that takes effect before his/her death is referred to as a donation and this should be governed by the formalities of and legal provisions on donations.

Two kinds of wills: Holographic and Notarial

A holographic will refers to a writen document which is dated and signed by the hand of the testator himself while a notarial will is governed by the provisions under Article 805 and 806, Civil Code.

"    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 shall 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 witnesses, it shall be interpreted to them.

    Art. 806. Every will must be acknowledged before a notary public by the testator and the witnesses. The notary public shall not be required to retain a copy of the will, or file another with the office of the Clerk of Court."

Inheritance Without A Last Will

Problems often arise when the spouse dies without a will. There is indeed some confusion if you do not know anything about the inheritance law. Under Article 996 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, only you and your children are entitled to inherit and not the spouse's siblings, parents, or grandparents. The information you need to know including the succession of inheritance can be found in Chapter 3 of Republic Act No. 386.

Legal or Intestate Succession

"Subsection 1. - Descending Direct Line

Art. 978. Succession pertains, in the first place, to the descending direct line. (930)

Art. 979. Legitimate children and their descendants succeed the parents and other ascendants, without distinction as to sex or age, and even if they should come from different marriages.

An adopted child succeeds to the property of the adopting parents in the same manner as a legitimate child. (931a)

Art. 980. The children of the deceased shall always inherit from him in their own right, dividing the inheritance in equal shares. (932)

Art. 981. Should children of the deceased and descendants of other children who are dead, survive, the former shall inherit in their own right, and the latter by right of representation. (934a)

Art. 982. The grandchildren and other descendants shall inherit by right of representation, and if any one of them should have died, leaving several heirs, the portion pertaining to him shall be divided among the latter in equal portions. (933)

Art. 983. If illegitimate children survive with legitimate children, the shares of the former shall be in the proportions prescribed by Article 895. (n)

Art. 984. In case of the death of an adopted child, leaving no children or descendants, his parents and relatives by consanguinity and not by adoption, shall be his legal heirs. (n)

Subsection 2. - Ascending Direct Line

Art. 985. In default of legitimate children and descendants of the deceased, his parents and ascendants shall inherit from him, to the exclusion of collateral relatives. (935a)

Art. 986. The father and mother, if living, shall inherit in equal shares.

Should one only of them survive, he or she shall succeed to the entire estate of the child. (936)

Art. 987. In default of the father and mother, the ascendants nearest in degree shall inherit.

Should there be more than one of equal degree belonging to the same line they shall divide the inheritance per capita; should they be of different lines but of equal degree, one-half shall go to the paternal and the other half to the maternal ascendants. In each line the division shall be made per capita. (937)

Subsection 3. - Illegitimate Children

Art. 988. In the absence of legitimate descendants or ascendants, the illegitimate children shall succeed to the entire estate of the deceased. (939a)

Art. 989. If, together with illegitimate children, there should survive descendants of another illegitimate child who is dead, the former shall succeed in their own right and the latter by right of representation. (940a)

Art. 990. The hereditary rights granted by the two preceding articles to illegitimate children shall be transmitted upon their death to their descendants, who shall inherit by right of representation from their deceased grandparent. (941a)

Art. 991. If legitimate ascendants are left, the illegitimate children shall divide the inheritance with them, taking one-half of the estate, whatever be the number of the ascendants or of the illegitimate children. (942-841a)

Art. 992. An illegitimate child has no right to inherit ab intestato from the legitimate children and relatives of his father or mother; nor shall such children or relatives inherit in the same manner from the illegitimate child. (943a)

Art. 993. If an illegitimate child should die without issue, either legitimate or illegitimate, his father or mother shall succeed to his entire estate; and if the child's filiation is duly proved as to both parents, who are both living, they shall inherit from him share and share alike. (944)

Art. 994. In default of the father or mother, an illegitimate child shall be succeeded by his or her surviving spouse who shall be entitled to the entire estate.

If the widow or widower should survive with brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, she or he shall inherit one-half of the estate, and the latter the other half. (945a)"

Death Is Certain And So Is Estate Tax

When death comes knocking on your door, there is nothing you can do but embrace it and accept that you have reached the final chapter of your life. For an individual who cares for the future of loved ones left behind, leaving properties upon death is a sound decision. However, these properties can become a liability if estate taxes are not properly settled. The question is: Who pays the estate tax?

Estate Tax

Estate tax refers to the difference between the allowable deductions and the gross estate as defined under Section 85 and 86 of the Tax Code. The rates of estate tax are graduated and depend on the amount of net estate. The property may not be transferred to the decedent’s heirs if filing of the estate tax return has not been executed and payment of the estate tax has not been made. The problem often lies with non-payment of estate tax and this is one of the road blocks in transferring the property to the buyers’ or heirs’ names.

Estate Proceedings

When someone passes away, there are things that need to be done so you can prevent problems with transferring the property. 

1.    Within two months, the family has to file a Notice of Death with the Bureau of Internal Revenue after the date of death. When the value of the estate exceeds P20,000, this procedure will be applied. The Notice of Death should be filed by the administrator of the estate of executor. There is no specific format that should be followed for filing the notice.

2.    A Tax Identification Number (TIN) for the Estate of the deceased individual will also be required. This can be secured by filling out the BIR Form No. 1901. The TIN is essential for filing the Estate Tax Return (BIR Form No. 1801).

3.    Make sure the list of decedent’s assets and liabilities are ready. The faire market values of the properties at the time of the decedent’s death must also be obtained.

4.    Essential documents for the assets and liabilities must be prepared. Some of the supporting documents that must be secured are a certified copy of the Death Certificate, Notice of Death received by the BIR, Affidavit of Self-Adjudication etc.

5.    Once required documents are completed, the net estate and estate tax must be computed.

6.    Estate Tax Return must be filed and estate taxes should be paid.

7.    There will be a procedure for transferring the properties to the heir’s name which should be followed.

8.    The procedure for cancellation of the decedent’s TIN as outlined in Section 12 of Revenue Regulations No. 7-2012 must also be followed.

Why You Should Use an Attorney to Prepare Your Will

There is no substitute for legal advice from an attorney especially when it comes to preparing a will. In fact, a will must not be taken lightly as it is a serious matter. Attempting to write a will on your own is going to be risky and may even result in committing costly mistakes. While you might be vacillating on whether to get an attorney to complete your will or do it yourself, these following reasons might just enlighten you on the importance of an attorney: 

Specific Terms Are Used To Avoid Confusion

Vague terms can wreak havoc on completing your will and you might run the risk of being misinterpreted. The attorney uses a standard language for everyone to understand the content of your will. With the standard language, confusions are prevented and the message is conveyed to your beneficiaries and will executors. 


Homemade wills are less likely to be free of errors because it does not undergo the same scrutiny and examination that it gets when it is done by attorneys. Let’s face it, there are some technicalities involved in completing a will and attorneys are detail-oriented. They know the process of preparing a will, but if you are going to make your own will without seeking help from professionals, you might commit errors that are often difficult to undo. Some of the major errors that you may commit include forgetting to keep your will updated, forgetting to include your sign in the will, adding amendments and many others. 

The Will Is Based On Solid Facts 

Attorneys have undergone extensive training to familiarize themselves with the law’s intricacy. Imagine the time and effort they invested to acquire their title. If you are going to write your own will based on assumptions, there might be some areas that remain unclear to you. There will be questions lingering in your mind and they will remain unanswered unless you decide to get help. Contingencies are covered by an attorney that specializes in will preparation. There will be no confusions and your questions are answered point blank. 

Familiarity With Inheritance Tax and Law

Inheritance law is essential when preparing a will. Since it is governed by Civil Code, everything must be accurate and concise. An attorney can provide the right solutions to various inheritance issues that DIY will preparation may have possibly missed. 

Essentials For Preparing A Will

• It must be properly executed.

The will should include a date and place of signing. There should be witnesses in your presence before signing could take place. 

• The testator must be of legal age.

A testator must be at least eighteen years of age to be considered qualified for preparing a will. 

• The testator must have a sound mind.

It is also important that you are fully aware you are making a will. You should know the names of beneficiaries or descendants. 

• The will must be properly signed.

An unsigned will is considered invalid. With that being said, it is required that you voluntarily sign your will. Alternative provisions will be made if there are some unlikely circumstances that deterred a testator to sign the will such as illness or illiteracy.  

• There must be a clear intention to transfer the property. 

A statement with your intention to transfer the property to specific persons must also be prepared.