Substantial compliance rule in wills

Article 809. In the absence of bad faith, forgery, or fraud, or undue and improper pressure and influence, defects and imperfections in the form of attestation or in the language used therein shall not render the will invalid if it is proved that the will was in fact executed and attested in substantial compliance with all the requirements of article 805. (Civil Code of the Philippines)

This rule only applies when it comes to the form of attestation and the language used therein.

We stress once more that under Article 809, the defects and imperfections must only be with respect to the form of the attestation or the language employed therein. Such defects or imperfections would not render a will invalid should it be proved that the will was really executed and attested in compliance with Article 805. In this regard, however, the manner of proving the due execution and attestation has been held to be limited to merely an examination of the will itself without resorting to evidence aliunde, whether oral or written.

The foregoing considerations do not apply where the attestation clause totally omits the fact that the attesting witnesses signed each and every page of the will in the presence of the testator and of each other. In such a situation, the defect is not only in the form or language of the attestation clause but the total absence of a specific element required by Article 805 to be specifically stated in the attestation clause of a will. That is precisely the defect complained of in the present case since there is no plausible way by which we can read into the questioned attestation clause statement, or an implication thereof, that the attesting witness did actually bear witness to the signing by the testator of the will and all of its pages and that said instrumental witnesses also signed the will and every page thereof in the presence of the testator and of one another.

Furthermore, the rule on substantial compliance in Article 809 cannot be revoked or relied on by respondents since it presupposes that the defects in the attestation clause can be cured or supplied by the text of the will or a consideration of matters apparent therefrom which would provide the data not expressed in the attestation clause or from which it may necessarily be gleaned or clearly inferred that the acts not stated in the omitted textual requirements were actually complied within the execution of the will. In other words, defects must be remedied by intrinsic evidence supplied by the will itself. (G.R. No. 103554. May 28, 1993)