How to prepare a Last Will and Testament

Preparing a Last Will and Testament can be intimidating. Many people don’t think about writing a Last Will and Testament until it is urgently needed. It’s not uncommon to be in some sort of ‘panic mode’ and filled with anxiety as movies and media make wills seem complicated and easily questioned or opposed in courts.

In the Philippines, there is a simple way to put together a will, albeit with an antiquated name: Holographic Will. The Philippines ‘New’ Civil Code was made effective way back in 1950. So, some terms can sound confusing, odd or simply out of touch. Article 810 of the Civil Code governs so-called Holographic Wills. If a will is entirely written, dated, and signed by the testator it is a valid will. We must stress that “written” for purposes of holographic wills means hand-written.

Thus, the simplest way to write a will is to take a blank sheet of paper and write it out by hand, old-school. The requirements are so simple: write it out, make sure it’s dated and sign it.

What should be stated in the will?

The will should clearly state who your properties are being bequeathed to. The kind and character of the property should be clear as well, whether it is personal property or real property. Real property should be described by the Title number and technical description.

There are also a lot of rules governing compulsory heirs (who cannot be fully disinherited) and prohibited bequests. It is also highly recommended that you name an “executor” of you will in the will itself as well as at least one substitute or alternative.

You may also include in your will your desires on how you want your remains to be taken care of. It is also a must that you consult with a lawyer by at least showing the Last Will and Testament to a licensed Philippines attorney who can confirm that your will contains all the necessary information to be implemented.

Is a Holographic Will the only option?

If a Holographic Will is not for you, you may opt for a more complicated will, called a Notarial Will. As the name implies, this will must be acknowledged before a Notary. A Notarial Will can be printed out but it has many requirements, such as: The page numbers must be indicated in LETTERS, you must have at least three witnesses who will: a) sign all the pages of the will, the signature page (as witnesses) in the presence of each other and of the testator; and b) sign the attestation clause in the presence of the notary public, all the witnesses and the testator. c) The will must be signed by the testator in the presence of the witnesses.

It is easy to miss out on requirements so we do not recommend writing a notarial will without consulting an attorney. For instance, if the testator is blind, the will must be read out aloud twice – first in the presence of the witnesses and again by the notary public himself.

Apart from the requirements with regard to form, you would also need an attorney to make sure that the bequests are allowed by law.

All in all, making a will is not quite as daunting as it seems. However, it is one of those things that still require the assistance of an attorney.

What if I never get around to making a will? What happens to the properties?

Your compulsory heirs are entitled to inherit your properties by law. In general, compulsory heirs are your spouse and children, and they exclude all other relatives. If there are no children, the parents and siblings can inherit. If there are no relatives at all, the State can inherit the properties.

In short, your heirs will not be deprived of an inheritance if you forget to prepare a will.