Last Will and Testament in the Philippines: Basic Discussion

The settlement of a person’s estate after his/her death, based on our experience, is potentially one of the more bitter litigations. It’s never good to see relatives fighting each other. Some persons, with the intent of controlling the disposition of his/her properties after his/her death (and hopefully prevent fighting among his/her heirs over the properties left), prepare a “last will and testament”. Let’s have a brief discussion on this matter.

Basics of Last Will and Testament in the Philippines


A “last will and testament,” or simply a “will,” is “an act whereby a person is permitted, with the formalities prescribed by law, to control to a certain degree the disposition of his estate”. It is a document whereby a person, called the “testator,” disposes of his/her properties or “estate,” to take effect upon his/her death.

The “testator” is the deceased person who made a last will and testament.

The person who is given PERSONAL property through a will is technically called the “legatee,” while the person who is given REAL property in a will is called the “devisee.”

The person named in the will who is entrusted to implement its provisions is called the “executor.” If the “executor” is female, she is formally known as the “executrix”.


A “will” is different from “inheritance”. A will is different from inheritance, which “includes all the property, rights and obligations of a person which are not extinguished by his death” (Civil Code, Art. 776). In other words, the basic difference between a “will” and “inheritance” is that a “will” is the document that determines the disposition of the “inheritance”.


A document entitled “last will and testament”, but provides that all properties must be transferred during the lifetime of the testator, is not a “will”. A will takes effect upon death of the testator. If the disposition takes effect before his/her death, it is a donation and is governed by the formalities of and legal provisions on donations.


There are two kinds of wills — holographic and notarial. A holographic will must be entirely written, dated, and signed by the hand of the testator himself. It is subject to no other form, and may be made in or out of the Philippines, and need not be witnessed (Article 810, Civil Code; See Holographic Wills: Form, Requirements for Validity and Probate).

On the other hand, a notarial will may be printed, signed by the testator and at least three witnesses, and notarized. [See Notarial Wills: Form and Requirements]


A will enables a person to have control over the disposition of his/her estate. In the absence of a will (or if the will is not probated), the general provisions of law govern the disposition of the estate of the deceased person. The proceedings in the absence of a will is called “intestate proceedings.” [See also: Basic Concepts in Estate Proceedings and Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate]


“Probate” is a special proceeding to establish the validity of a will. Probate is mandatory, which means that no will passes either real or personal property unless it is proved and allowed in a proper court. Courts in probate proceedings, as a rule, are limited to pass only upon the extrinsic validity of the will sought to be probated, but the courts are not powerless to do what the situation constrains them to do, and pass upon certain provisions of the will, under exceptional circumstances.

A will may be probated during the lifetime of the testator. This way, the testator could himself/herself affirm the validity of the will.


It is a special proceeding to establish the validity of a will previously proved in a foreign country.


The person who has custody of the will has the legal obligation to produce it. The practical problem with this is when only a few persons know about the existence of the will and all of them agree not to produce it. This is one of the reasons why some testators sometimes entrust the custody of a will to their lawyers, who are then obligated upon death of said testator to enforce the provisions of his/her will.

In the case of Dy Yieng Sangio vs. Reyes (G.R. Nos. 140371-72 (27 November 2006), a petition for the settlement of the intestate estate was filed. The oppositors argued that the deceased has a holographic will and that the intestate proceedings should be automatically suspended and replaced by the proceedings for the probate of the will. A petition for probate of the holographic will was eventually filed. The Supreme Court ordered the probate of the will and the suspension of the intestate proceedings. According to the SC, it is a fundamental principle that the intent or the will of the testator, expressed in the form and within the limits prescribed by law, must be recognized as the supreme law in succession. All rules of construction are designed to ascertain and give effect to that intention. It is only when the intention of the testator is contrary to law, morals, or public policy that it cannot be given effect.


Even if a document is not entitled “last will and testament,” it still can be treated as a will. In the case of Dy Yieng Sangio vs. Reyes, the document is entitled “Kasulatan ng Pag-Aalis ng Mana.” The document, although it may initially come across as a mere disinheritance instrument, conforms to the formalities of a holographic will prescribed by law. It is written, dated and signed by the hand of the testator himself. An intent to dispose mortis causa (upon death) can be clearly deduced from the terms of the instrument, and while it does not make an affirmative disposition of the latter’s property, the disinheritance, nonetheless, is an act of disposition in itself. In other words, the disinheritance results in the disposition of the property of the testator in favor of those who would succeed in the disinherited heir.

P&L Law

81 thoughts on “Last Will and Testament in the Philippines: Basic Discussion

  1. AvatarTerri

    I’d like your opinion please.
    My father died with a will and my living mother attested that she agreed to the provisions. My father gave each of us 6 children a piece of the rice fields and the house was split into three owners (myself, a brother #3, and sister #3). The land where the house sits was willed to me. Brother #1 (on the prodding of his wife)wants to contest the will. They are saying the will was wrong and wants the land divided into 6. Brother #2 is not interested in house and land. Sister #2 maybe interested in getting some cash from the land (my thought) if divided. I know brother #3 can contest the will, but what are his chances of winning. My father did not give him part of house and land because he is the black sheep of the family.
    Million thanks for your response

  2. Avatarjen

    Good day,
    Here’s my situation:

    Lumaki po ako kasama ang lolo at lola ko, unang namatay ang lola ko then after 7 years namatay narin po ang lolo ko. Nakatira pa rin po ako ngayon sa bahay at lupa ng lolo’t lola ko kung saan ako lumaki kasama sila. Ngayon po ay pinagaawayan ito ng mga tito at tita ko, ang alam ko lang ay yung titulo ng lupang ito ay nasa bunsong anak ng lolo ko which is yung tita ko. May nakapagsabi po kasi sakin na family friend namin (at kapitbahay) na may pinapirmahan daw sa kanila ang lolo ko dati na kasulatan na meron daw po ako parte sa mana. Nung una ay binabalewala ko lang po yun, pero kahapon po ay bigla na lang ako hiningian ng 2 valid ID’s nung tita ko… nung tinanong ko kung bakit, ang sabi basta may inaayos lng daw sila about dito sa lupa ng lolo ko… napaisip po kasi ako bigla bakit nila kailangan ang ID ko.. dapat ko po ba sila bigyan ng kopya ng mga ID’s ko? Kung totoong may parte nga po ako sa mana, kaya po ba nila (mga tito at tita ko) na tanggalin yun sakin? Maraming maraming salamat po sa sagot na maipapayo nyo… magiging malaking tulong iyon sakin.

  3. AvatarOrlin

    Hi, sana po may makatulong, we have a photocopy of a holographic will of our late grandma, our names our stated there to have an equal share with the legitimate children. Ang problema po nmin ay itong pag probate, balak po kase nmin i probate itong photocopy na holographic will ni lola kaso di nmin alam kung ano ano yung dapat namin ihanda na papeles at kung magkano abutin yung gasto sa filling fee.pls help.

  4. Avatargem

    good day!

    matagal na kami wla communication sa daddy ko siguro po 15years na.. hiwalay na sila ng mommy ko pero hinde po sila legally separated.. namatay po yung daddy ko and nasa kanya ung titulo ng lupa namin na conjugal property po nila ng mommy ko.. kakaretire nya lang din so i assume meron sya retirement money na nakuha.. hinde ko dn po alam mga bank accounts ang daddy ko.. incase po ba na hinde namin alam
    na mga anak nya ang account nya sa bangko my possibility po ba na sa mga kapatid nya mapunta un incase sila mgclaim at wala kaming knowledge mgkapatid dun sa existence nun? thanks po

  5. Avatarangelie

    good pm po regarding po sa mana ng mother k nakamatayan nya po eto nababanggit lang po eto samen o sa akin pero di po ganun ka detalye bago po sya mamatay my iniwan po sya saken sulat po ng atty regarding po sa share nya so ng nakabalik po ako sa pinas kinontak k po yun atty na ngpadala ng sulat sa mother ko . sinabi nga po na matagal ng my buyer yun property dun so patay n po mother k kya pinagagawa nya po ako na ibenebenta n namen yun share ng mother ko na sign up ng lhat ng anak at ipa notaryo pumunta po ako sa property sa butuan po so ok naman po lahat dun ang nagiging problema lang po ngayon ay bigla pong ng react yun eldest brother namen binypass dw po sya at bilang pg pirma po ang condition nya ay sya po ang kakatawan pra samen lahat ng pag aasikaso 3yrs na pong patay ang mother ko wala naman po silang ginagawa so napagkasunduan po sa butuan na ako na ang mg representative samen lahat napapirma ko na lahat pte na rin po yun mga anak ng namatay namen kapatid ang tanong po sir puede po bng i apply sa ganitong case ang majority wins hirap din po sa buhay ang mga kapatid ko at meron nga pong d nakapag enroll ngyon so malaking bagay po yun makukuha nilang share dito yun nga lng po ayaw pong pumirma nun eldest bro at 1 bro na brainwash nya 8 po kme yun 1 patay n 1 nsa US at yun youngest po nsa mental pa kailangan din po pra sa medication nya no choice na po kasi d rin po kme o ako papayag na sya ang mag representative dahil sa pgnanakaw nya saken so puede po bng majority wins pls po let me know po salamat po

  6. Avatarlendon

    hello po sana po matulungan niyo ako.. mayroon po ako lolo nagusto ipangalan samin iyong bahay lupa niya. wala po siya anak o asawa. mga pamankin na lang po. anak ng kapatid ni lolo na pumanaw na din ililipat po sana samin yun bahay. kaso di po kami umabot. nakasangla po kasi titulo at pinahiram po ng pinagsanglaan namin para lang malipat ngayon po ay wala na ang lolo namin. tinuring niya po kami parang tunay na anak at mga apo. kami po kasi mga favorite niya . ngayon po itatanong ko lang po kung mapapalayas ba kami sa bahay ng lolo ko. kahit nasa amin titulo tax declaration kami po ngababayad ng tax
    at may inwan po sulat handwritting si lolo na nakalagay na saamin pinamana… nakatira po kami sa bahay na yun since 1998. sana po mabigyan niyo kasagutan salamat po

  7. AvatarGemini

    Hi po. Ask lang illegitimate po ang anak ko, ang father nya ay isang British kasal sa isang Pinay pro mtgal ng hindi nagsasama. Pwde po bang ang anak ko ang gawing tagapagmana sakaling gumawa ng last will and testament ang father nya? Wala po sila anak ng asawa nyang Pinay.

    Thank you sana masagot po tanong ko.

  8. AvatarPaula

    Additional questions regarding wills:

    1) Alam ko na hindi kailangan ang abogado sa holographic will, pero required ba iyan for notarized will?
    2) May the executors if a will also be beneficiaries?
    3) How many witnesses are required and do they require IDs, ctc number or tin listed on the will?

  9. AvatarHung

    gumawa po ng last will ang mama ko, pero ginawa nya po ito buhay pa ang papa ko, valid po ba ito? and then kung ang will po ay nasa korte para mai probate, maari na po bang magalaw ang mga property ng namatay, gaya po ng pagpapatayo ng bagong straktura o extension ng buildings? contested po ang will.

  10. AvatarEmmanuel

    Hi. Our father passed away on 2006 , and I am the only one who didn’t make it to the funeral , he died in the Philippnes nod I was living in the US.
    Unfortunately there was a last will and testament done on 6th December 2006 , 7 days before he passed away, and it’s unfair will because one of my sister gets everything. Anyway, how would I know that this last wll and testament made few days before he died is real and not fake? And my mother is still alive now, can she change the will on her behalf?
    And why my 3 sisters know about the will already and me and my other stars doesn’t know or seen this documents ? So is there something done incorrectly? How would I found out that this is not fake?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.