holographic will, cecil harris; hand written will

Valid Will Scratched on Farm Tractor

As lawyers we see many different ways that people “do it yourself” in terms of legal documents. This is a situation that you do not see too often. In 1948 a tractor fender with 16 words scratched into it was filed with the Surrogate Court in Saskatchewan. Read on for the whole story.

The Accident

Cecil George Harris was a farmer in rural Saskatchewan. One morning in June 1948 he said his goodbyes to his wife and children. Not long after he started out form their home, Mr. Harris had to make some repairs on his tractor. Inadvertently having left his tractor out of gear, it rolled and trapped him as he was fixing the tractor. With his left leg pinned and bleeding badly, Mr. Harris could not get out from the tractor. As his farm work was mostly done in solitude, no one was aware of any issues until he failed to return home that night. At approximately half past 10, his wife found him and took him to the local hospital. At that point he was unconscious and passed away a short time later.

The Law on Wills

Saskatchewan, like Alberta, has a law that allows for handwritten wills. These type of wills are known as holographic wills. There are clearly set out rules about these wills in terms of what is allowed, what is not allowed and what is specifically required. This law was soon to come into play with respect to Mr. Harris. Ironically, the “fender will” was more effective than some will kits sold in stores. (Click here for our video on will kits.)

The Handwritten Will

While trapped, Mr. Harris faced the reality that he may not survive the accident. Using his pocket knife, Mr. Harris scratched his last wishes into the fender of the tractor. He wrote, “In case i die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo. Harris”. A few days after he passed away, it was discovered that Cecil George Harris had carved a “will” into the fender of the tractor. The fender was removed after it was discovered and filed with the courthouse. Courts, generally try to find a legal means of respecting the final wishes of someone who has passed away. In this case, they acknowledged this will as a valid holographic will. As of 1996, the fender is on display at the Law School at the University of Saskatchewan. The University recently celebrated the 65 anniversary of the will.

A Word of Caution About Holograph Wills

Before anyone goes and creates a novel form of will, there are a few words of advice. Wills are intricate legal documents. While the wishes of Mr. Harris were followed out, there are many concerns that can arise when a will is hand drafted. There are times, such as with Mr. Cecil George Harris, where there is no other choice. While doing your own holographic will may be cheaper, it is not always less expensive.

Click here to learn more about what you need to know regarding holographic wills.