“Some people decide all the estate planning they want is a will. They prefer the ease of using a will to the more complicated methods needed to avoid probate or reduce death taxes.”– Atty. Denis Clifford, Author of “Plan Your Estate with a Living Trust”
In the Philippines, joint wills, which are wills executed by two or more persons, are prohibited under Philippine law. Joint wills are wills that are typically executed by married couples, where they express their wishes for the distribution of their assets after their deaths in a single document. However, due to legal restrictions, couples in the Philippines need to explore alternative options to effectively execute their last will and testament. In this article, we will delve into the prohibition of joint wills in the Philippines and discuss the best alternatives for couples who wish to execute their wills.
Prohibition of Joint Wills in the Philippines
Under Philippine law, joint wills are not recognized and are considered null and void. Article 818 of the Civil Code of the Philippines provides that “two or more persons cannot make a will jointly, or in the same instrument, either for their reciprocal benefit or for the benefit of a third person.” This means that couples cannot create a single joint will expressing their joint wishes for the distribution of their assets after their deaths. This prohibition is rooted in the principle of freedom of testation, which allows individuals to freely express their own wishes and preferences in their last will and testament.
Reasons for the Prohibition of Joint Wills
The prohibition of joint wills in the Philippines is based on several reasons. One of the main reasons is to ensure that each person has the freedom to express their own individual wishes and preferences in their will. Joint wills can potentially create conflicts of interest between the parties involved, as their interests may change over time or after the death of one of the parties. Additionally, joint wills can also be vulnerable to undue influence or fraud, as one party may unduly influence the other in the preparation of the will.
Best Alternatives for Couples
Despite the prohibition of joint wills in the Philippines, there are several alternatives that couples can consider to effectively execute their last will and testament:
Separate Wills: Couples can create separate wills, wherein each spouse executes their own individual will expressing their own wishes and preferences for the distribution of their assets. This allows each spouse to freely express their own wishes (or make specific bequests as each desires) without any conflicts of interest or potential undue influence.
Mutual Wills: Couples can also consider executing mutual wills, which are separate wills that contain reciprocal provisions. Mutual wills are typically used by couples who want to leave their assets to each other and then to their chosen beneficiaries after both spouses have passed away. Mutual wills can include provisions that restrict the surviving spouse from changing the beneficiaries or the distribution of the assets after the death of the first spouse.
Moreover, mutual wills typically contain an agreement not to revoke or alter the terms of the will without the consent of the other spouse. Mutual wills are often used to ensure that the surviving spouse is taken care of and that the agreed-upon distribution of assets to heirs or beneficiaries is carried out.
Trusts: Another alternative is to create a trust or a series of trusts as part of an estate plan. Trusts can be established during the lifetime of the spouses or through their wills. A trust allows assets to be managed and distributed according to the specific instructions outlined in the trust document. It can provide for the surviving spouse’s needs while also ensuring that the assets are ultimately distributed to the intended beneficiaries.
Family Arrangements: While not legally binding like wills or trusts, some couples may choose to rely on family arrangements. This involves open discussions and agreements among family members about the distribution of assets after the couple’s passing. While such arrangements may be informal, they can help guide the family and reduce potential conflicts. Just make sure that all the children are on the same page and will strictly follow the arrangements outlined by the parents.
It is important to consult with a qualified attorney or estate planning professional in the Philippines to ensure that the chosen alternative aligns with existing laws and the Rules of Court. Experienced estate planning attorneys can provide personalized guidance based on the couple’s specific circumstances and help draft the necessary legal documents to establish an effective estate plan.
While joint wills are prohibited in the Philippines, couples have alternative options to effectively execute their last will and testament. Separate wills, mutual wills, and trusts are recognized under Philippine law and can provide couples with the flexibility to express their individual wishes and preferences for the distribution of their assets after their deaths. It is essential for couples to seek legal advice from a qualified estate planning attorney to ensure that their wills or trust agreements or documents are valid and comply with the legal requirements in the Philippines. Proper estate planning can provide peace of mind for couples and their loved ones, ensuring that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after their deaths.
Atty. Jojo is a real estate attorney, an estate planning attorney, a licensed real estate broker, and a PRC-accredited Lecturer/ Speaker for Training Programs in Real Estate. He is a Chartered Trust and Estate Planning (CTEP®) professional who is committed to educating Filipinos about the value and importance of having an estate plan in their lives.