Sunday, September 22, 2013

WILLS: Testators presumed to be of sound mind

Dear PAO,
I would like to ask for your legal advice regarding the last will and testament of my deceased father. My other siblings contest my father’s will by alleging that he was not in the right mind when he made his last will since he was already very old during that time. My father was around 80 yrs old when he made his last will but I believe that he was still aware and in the right mind when he made it. How would I prove that my father was in his right mind when he made the will?

Dear Richie,
It is not for you to prove that your father was of sound mind when he made his will. Rather, it is up to your siblings to prove their allegation that your father was not in the right mind at the time of the execution of his will. This is because the law gives the presumption that a person making a will is of sound mind unless proven otherwise.

The law on testamentary capacity clearly states that:
Article 800. The law presumes that every person is of sound mind, in the absence of proof to the contrary.
The burden of proof that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of making his dispositions is on the person who opposes the probate of the will; but if the testator, one month, or less, before making his will was publicly known to be insane, the person who maintains the validity of the will must prove that the testator made it during a lucid interval” (Civil Code of The Philippines).

As explicitly provided by the law, it is up to those who oppose the will to prove the absence of a sound mind by the testator. On the other hand, you will only be required to prove the sanity of your father as the testator if he was previously known to be insane before he made the will.

Furthermore, one’s legal capacity to make a will is unhampered by mere old age since the law precisely states how to determine if the testator was of sound mind in relation to the execution of his will, to which it states that:

Article 799. To be of sound mind, it is not necessary that the testator be in full possession of all his reasoning faculties, or that his mind be wholly unbroken, unimpaired, or unshattered by disease, injury or other cause.

It shall be sufficient if the testator was able at the time of making the will to know the nature of the estate to be disposed of, the proper objects of his bounty, and the character of the testamentary act” (Civil Code of The Philippines).

Thus, it is the testator’s awareness and knowledge on the nature of his estate being disposed, the particular object involved, and the character of his testamentary act, which are ultimately considered in determining whether he is of sound mind when he executed the will.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

source:  Manila Times Column by Atty Persida Acosta

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