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G.R.

L-16749

January 31, 1963

IN THE MATTER OF THE TESTATE ESTATE OF EDWARD E.


CHRISTENSEN, DECEASED.
ADOLFO C. AZNAR, Executor and LUCY CHRISTENSEN, Heir of
the deceased vs HELEN CHRISTENSEN GARCIA
J. Labrador

Facts:
Edward E. Christensen, an American citizen of California ,
died
in
the
Philippines testate.
In his will he acknowledged the plaintiff, Lucy Christensen, as his only
child and only living descendant. He has no living ascendants.
Defendant, Helen Christensen Garcia, was included in the will, but was only
allocated P3,600.00 in cash. The rest was to be inherited by plaintiff. It was
said in the will that the defendant was baptized Christensen, but is not
related in any way to the testator.
Defendant contested the partition on the ground that she has been
acknowledged natural child of the testator through G.R. Nos. L11483-84 and that while Article 16 of the Civil Code dictates that in cases of
inheritance and succession, the national laws of the testator are to be
followed, Section 946 of the California Civil Code, states that the
domicile of the decedent should apply. And that since the Philippines is
the decedents domicile, and being a natural child of the decedent, she
should be granted one-half of the estate.
Lower court ruled that as the decedent was a citizen of the USA and the State
of California at the time of his death, the successional rights and intrinsic
validity of the provisions in his will are to be governed by the laws of
the State of California, in accordance with which, the testator has
the right to dispose of his property the way he desires, because the
right of absolute dominion over his property is sacred and inviolable
(In re McDaniel's Estate, 77 Cal. Appl. 2d 877, 176 P. 2d 952, and In
re Kaufman, 117 Cal. 286, 49 Pac. 192, cited in page 179, Record on
Appeal).
Issues:
1. WON the lower courts erred in not considering Section 946 of the California
Civil Code in making their ruling.
Ratio:
Yes. For Section 946 of California Civil Code to take effect, it must first be
proved that the decedents last domicile when he was still alive was in the
Philippines. For the last 40 years of his life, decedent has lived mostly
in the Philippines, going back to the United States on two occasions,
both short trips (probably to visit relatives). Also, despite being a
resident of California for nine years prior to his first visit to the
Philippines, he has never owned a home or any property in the state
until the day he died. From this, it is clear to the SC that the decedents
domicile is here in the Philippines. It is however, important to note that

despite establishing domicile in the Philippines, the decedent remained a


citizen of the USA, and reiterating the same in his will where it is shown that
he considers himself a citizen of California.
There is no American national law on testamentary provisions,
there being only a private law for each state that applies to the
citizens of the state. In this case, then, Article 16 of the Civil Code, when it
refers to the national law of the testator, must refer to the private law of the
state. There being the court decision In re Kaufman, Supra and there being
Section 496 of California Civil Code, the former is treated as internal law while
the latter is the conflict of laws rule. Under the doctrine of renvoi, the
court must first take into account all the laws, not only internal laws,
of the country where the case or problem is to be sent back. After
this, the court must apply the foreign law that best fits the case,
which can mean applying the laws of the court instead of foreign
laws. In this case, the internal law derived from In re Kaufman, Supra, holds
true for residents of the state of California, while Section 946 governs
testamentary provisions for citizens who are domiciled outside the state. It is,
therefore, proper that the law to be followed is Section 946 of the California
Civil Code, as the decedent is a citizen of the state who is domiciled outside
the state.
Applying Section 946 of California Civil Code, the laws of the Philippines on
testamentary provisions are the governing laws for this case. And under
Articles 887(4) and 894 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, defendant, being
a natural child of the decedent, becomes a legally acknowledged forced heir
of the parent, in this case the decedent, recognizing her.

Notes:
Renvoi Doctrine:
If, for example, the English law directs its judge to distribute the personal estate of
an Englishman who has died domiciled in Belgium in accordance with the law of his
domicile, he must first inquire whether the law of Belgium would distribute personal
property upon death in accordance with the law of domicile, and if he finds that the
Belgian law would make the distribution in accordance with the law of nationality
that is the English law he must accept this reference back to his own law.