Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank vs Venicio Escolin

November 5, 2010
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56 SCRA 266 – Civil Law – Preliminary Title – Application of Laws – Nationality Principle

In November 1952, Linnie Jane Hodges, an American citizen from Texas made a will. In May 1957, while she was domiciled here in the Philippines (Iloilo City), she died.

In her will, she left all her estate in favor of her husband, Charles Newton Hodges. Linnie however also stated in her will that should her husband later die, said estate shall be turned over to her brother and sister.

In December 1962, Charles died (it appears he was also domiciled here). Atty. Leon Gellada, the lawyer of Charles filed a motion before the probate court (there was an ongoing probate on the will of Linnie) so that a certain Avelina Magno may be appointed as the administratrix of the estate. Magno was the trusted employee of the Hodges when they were alive. Atty. Gellada manifested that Charles himself left a will but the same was in an iron trunk in Charles’ office. Hence, in the meantime, he’d like to have Magno appointed as administratrix. Judge Venicio Escolin approved the motion.

Later, Charles’ will was found and so a new petition for probate was filed for the said will. Since said will basically covers the same estate, Magno, as admininistratrix of Linnie’s estate opposed the said petition. Eventually, the probate of Charles’ will was granted. Eventually still, the Philippine Commercial and Industrial Bank was appointed as administrator. But Magno refused to turn over the estate.

Magno contended that in her will, Linnie wanted Charles to turn over the property to Linnie’s brother and sister and since that is her will, the same must be respected. Magno also contended that Linnie was a Texan at the time of her death (an alien testator); that under Article 16 of the Civil Code, successional rights are governed by Linnie’s national law; that under Texas law, Linnie’s will shall be respected regardless of the presence of legitimes (Charles’ share in the estate).

PCIB argued that the law of Texas refers the matter back to Philippine laws because Linnie was domiciled outside Texas at the time of her death (applying the renvoi doctrine).

ISSUE: Whether or not Texas Law should apply.

HELD: The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court. Both parties failed to adduce proof as to the law of Texas. The Supreme Court held that for what the Texas law is on the matter, is a question of fact to be resolved by the evidence that would be presented in the probate court. The Supreme Court however emphasized that Texas law at the time of Linnie’s death is the law applicable (and not said law at any other time). NOTE: Dynamics of law.

 

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