Many of us are not comfortable discussing about inheritance. I usually advice parents to distribute their children’s inheritance while they are alive but someone remarked that he would rather hold on to his properties until his death. We have become familiar with inheritance or “mana” through telenovelas. There is the all too familiar scene where the will states that all the properties of the deceased will go to the favourite son or daughter making the other children furious and marks the beginning of the favourite child’s calvary. There are also the popular phrases hurled by an angry parent to a disobedient child: “tatanggalan kita ng mana” and “hindi kita pamamanahan”. These however, are not accurate. These words and phrases are of course used for dramatic effect but the legalities are more or less complicated.
The law prescribes two forms by which a person may control the disposition of his properties after his death: Holographic Will and Notarial Will. Holographic wills must be written entirely by hand by the testator himself and the Notarial will may be type written but must be executed before a notary public with all the requisites stated by law. It is the most basic requirement that the person executes his will out of his own volition and that he be of sound mind. It is very important to remember that only half of the estate of the deceased is considered as the free portion which may be given by the testator to any person who is not his heir. The other half is the legitime which is reserved by law for the legal or compulsory heirs. This is a safeguard against the anger of the decedent who would want to deprive a child of his inheritance by not assigning him any property in the will. Should the share of each heir be equal? According to the civil code the heirs should have equal sharing with respect to the legitime but the testator may distribute the free portion according as he desires. So in reality only the free portion is available for the distribution according to the desires of the testator since the other half is reserved for the compulsory heirs. Can an heir be disinherited? Yes, an heir may be disinherited only on the grounds stated by the Civil Code on Articles 915-923.
Allowance of Wills
The will, in order to pass real or personal property to the instituted heir or heirs must be allowed by the court in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Court. A petition may be filed by the executor, any heir, interested person or even the testator if he is still alive before the Regional Trial Court. Only after trial and the court has allowed the will can the assigned executor or administrator distribute the properties according to the will. The will, however may be disallowed if it is shown that it was not executed in accordance with law or if the testator did not execute it according to his own volition or that he was of unsound mind among others. If the court will not allow the will then it is as if there was no will and the rules on intestate succession will be followed. If the will does not contain a detailed manner of distribution but only states that an heir is being disinherited by reason a ground under the civil code, the will is still valid and the disinheritance may be followed and the properties may be distributed according to the rules of intestate succession.
The rules on succession can be described as complicated even for lawyers and this tells us that the law puts much importance on the passing of the decedent’s properties to his heirs. The law balances the welfare of the heirs with the intent