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Jul 21, 2010

G.R. No. 76714, June 2, 1994

  • PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW: Extrinsic Validity of Wills of Non-Resident Aliens
  • PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW: Reprobate of Foreign Wills: Requirement of Notices


Dr. Jose Cunanan and his wife, Dr. Evelyn Perez-Cunanan, who became American citizens and residents of New York, each executed a will also in New York, containing provisions on presumption of survivorship (in the event that it is not known which one of the spouses died first, the husband shall be presumed to have predeceased his wife). Later, the entire family perished in a fire that gutted their home. Thus, Rafael, who was named trustee in Jose’s will, filed for separate probate proceedings of the wills.

Later, Evelyn’s mother, Salud Perez, filed a petition for reprobate in Bulacan. Rafael opposed, arguing that Salud was not an heir according to New York law. He contended that since the wills were executed in New York, New York law should govern. He further argued that, by New York law, he and his brothers and sisters were Jose’s heirs and as such entitled to notice of the reprobate proceedings, which Salud failed to give.

For her part, Salud said she was the sole heir of her daughter, Evelyn, and that the two wills were in accordance with New York law. But before she could present evidence to prove the law of New York, the reprobate court already issued an order, disallowing the wills.

ISSUE: Whether or not the reprobate of the wills should be allowed


Extrinsic Validity of Wills of Non-Resident Aliens

The respective wills of the Cunanan spouses, who were American citizens, will only be effective in this country upon compliance with the following provision of the Civil Code of the Philippines:

Art. 816. 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.

Thus, proof that both wills conform with the formalities prescribed by New York laws or by Philippine laws is imperative.

Evidence for Reprobate of Wills Probated outside the Philippines

The evidence necessary for the reprobate or allowance of wills which have been probated outside of the Philippines are as follows: (1) the due execution of the will in accordance with the foreign laws; (2) the testator has his domicile in the foreign country and not in the Philippines; (3) the will has been admitted to probate in such country; (4) the fact that the foreign tribunal is a probate court, and (5) the laws of a foreign country on procedure and allowance of wills (III Moran Commentaries on the Rules of Court, 1970 ed., pp. 419-429; Suntay v. Suntay, 95 Phil. 500 [1954]; Fluemer v. Hix, 54 Phil. 610 [1930]). Except for the first and last requirements, the petitioner submitted all the needed evidence.

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.

On Lack of Notice to Jose’s Heirs

This petition cannot be completely resolved without touching on a very glaring fact - petitioner has always considered herself the sole heir of Dr. Evelyn Perez Cunanan and because she does not consider herself an heir of Dr. Jose F. Cunanan, she noticeably failed to notify his heirs of the filing of the proceedings. Thus, even in the instant petition, she only impleaded respondent Judge, forgetting that a judge whose order is being assailed is merely a nominal or formal party (Calderon v. Solicitor General, 215 SCRA 876 [1992]).

The rule that the court having jurisdiction over the reprobate of a will shall "cause notice thereof to be given as in case of an original will presented for allowance" (Revised Rules of Court, Rule 27, Section 2) means that with regard to notices, the will probated abroad should be treated as if it were an "original will" or a will that is presented for probate for the first time. Accordingly, compliance with Sections 3 and 4 of Rule 76, which require publication and notice by mail or personally to the "known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator resident in the Philippines" and to the executor, if he is not the petitioner, are required.

The brothers and sisters of Dr. Jose F. Cunanan, contrary to petitioner's claim, are entitled to notices of the time and place for proving the wills. Under Section 4 of Rule 76 of the Revised Rules of Court, the "court shall also cause copies of the notice of the time and place fixed for proving the will to be addressed to the designated or other known heirs, legatees, and devisees of the testator, . . . "

WHEREFORE, the questioned Order is SET ASIDE. Respondent Judge shall allow petitioner reasonable time within which to submit evidence needed for the joint probate of the wills of the Cunanan spouses and see to it that the brothers and sisters of Dr. Jose F. Cunanan are given all notices and copies of all pleadings pertinent to the probate proceedings.



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