Powers, duties of probate courts

Probate courts must guard with jealous the estate of the deceased person by intervening in its administration, liquidation and distribution. The State has an interest in the success of this process because succession is a privilege granted by law. Therefore, courts must make sure that any injury or wrong done or attempted to be done to the estate is prevented or redressed and remedied or repaired.

It is the duty of courts of probate jurisdiction to guard jealously the estates of the deceased person by intervening in the administration thereof in order to remedy or repair any injury that may be done thereto (Dariano vs. Fernandez Fidalgo, 14 Phil., 62, 67; Sison vs. Azarraga, 30 Phil., 129, 134).

"Probate and like courts have a special jurisdiction only, and their powers as to ancillary or incidental questions must of necessity to exercise within certain limitations; but such powers include the right to try questions which arise incidentally in a cause over which such courts have jurisdiction and the determination of which are necessary to a lawful exercise of the powers expressly conferred in arriving at a decision. . . . There seems, however, to be a general tendency, in the absence of express and specific restrictions to the contrary, to uphold the exercise by these court of such incidental powers as are, within the purview of their grant of authority, reasonably necessary to enable them to accomplish the objects for which they were invested with jurisdiction and to perfect the same. And it has been held that statutes conferring jurisdiction on such courts, being remedial and for the advancement of justice, should receive a favorable construction, such as will give them the force and efficiency intended by the legislature." (15 C. J., 813, 814.)

The tendency in the United States indeed has been towards the enlargement of the powers of probate courts. In the beginning these courts were possessed but limited powers. Having originated from the ecclesiastical courts of England, their jurisdiction, following their English patterns was practically limited to the probate of wills, the granting of administrators, and the suing for legacies (Plant vs. Harrion, 74 N. Y. Sup., 411, 441; 36 Misc. Rep., 649; Chadwick vs. Chadwick, 13 Pac., 385, 388; 6 Mont., 566; 3 Bl. Comm., pp. 95-98). But, though they still are often unadvisedly described, particularly in Connecticut (Griffin vs. Pratt, 3 Conn., 513), as courts of limited, inferior or special jurisdiction, they have outgrown their limitations and have become courts with considerably increased powers (Woerner, The American Law of Administration [2d], sec. 145; Plant vs. Harrison, supra).

Probate courts also have ancillary powers. They are the powers to [1] issue warrants and processes to compel attendance of a witness and to carry into effect their orders and judgments, [2] issue warrant for apprehension and imprisonment of a person who refuses to perform an order or judgment, and [3] all other powers granted to them by law. (Section 3 of Rule 73 of the Rules of Court)