Court okays probate of Yanson’s will disinheriting four children

Olivia Yanson with her children Leo Rey Yanson and Ginnette Yanson Dumancas during her 89th birthday in January* Ronnie Baldonado photo

Billionaire Olivia Villaflores Yanson, the matriarch of the clan that owns one of Asia’s biggest bus fleets, has received a legal greenlight for probate of her will that leaves only two of her six children as heirs to her fortune.

Bacolod City Regional Trial Court Branch 44 Presiding Judge Ana Celeste P. Bernad’s 27-page decision, dated Aug. 31, 2023, said the last will and testament had complied with formalities required by law.

Four Yanson children – Roy, Emily, Celina, and Ricky – have been dispossessed of the matriarch’s fortune.

The big winners are Leo Rey Yanson and Ginnette Yanson Dumancas, the two siblings allied with Olivia.

The four Yanson siblings could not be reached for comment.

The Yanson Group owns almost 5,000 bus units and employs 18,000 workers.

Since the death of Olivia’s husband, Ricardo, on Oct. 28, 2015 the family has been engaged in a tumultuous feud, which has included the physical struggle for control of its vast bus terminal in Bacolod City.

The Yanson matriarch filed a petition for probate of her last will and testament on April 15, 2019.

The American Bar Association defines probate as “the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate.”

Bernad’s decision said Section 1, Rule 75 of the Rules of Court, does not allow a probate court to “inquire into the intrinsic validity of the will or the disposition of the estate by the person leaving behind a legacy.”

The court must simply determine “whether the testator, being of sound mind, freely executed the will in accordance with the formalities prescribed by law.”

Lawyer Phillip Sigfrid Fortun, counsel for the four children oppositors, said they believe their mother “was under undue and improper influence and pressure from Leo Rey and Ginette.”

Olivia, however, told the court that even before Feb. 13, 2019 she had several discussions with her lawyers before she approved the will.

The widow said she sought probate during her lifetime to show that she is quite able in executing her Last Will and Testament of her own free will and desire.

While Fortun represented the oppossitors during hearings, none of the four personally appeared in court to witness and be cross examined.

Most of the oppossitors’ witnesses also acknowledged they were not present when the matriarch executed her last will and testament.

Judge Bernad said that Olivia, who was 85 when she made the document, had shown proof that she was in possession of all her reasoning faculties, knew the nature and extent of her estate, and clearly understood the import and consequences of executive the document.

She also signed the will in front of four subscribing witnesses, the judge added.

“On the other hand, Oppositors have not presented any evidence to the Court that would show there was undue influence or pressure exerted on the Petitioner…” the decision stressed.*

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