Scratched Message on a Fender considered a Holographic Will

A holographic will is a document that has been handwritten and signed by the Will maker – often created in emergency situations; whilst not meeting the requirements of a formal Will in some jurisdictions if the testator:

  • had the capacity to write the will, although there is a presumption that a testator had such capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary and;
  • expresses a wish to direct the distribution of their estate to beneficiaries

then the document may be admitted to probate.

The shortest valid will in the world was made in January 1967 by Karl Tausch in What was then West Germany written in Czech it stated “Vse zene” means “All to wife”.

In Perhaps the most peculiar Will in Canadian history is that of Cecil George Harris who set out on his tractor in his fields near Rosetown Saskatchewan on the morning of June 8 1948. He told his wife and two small children he’d be working until about 10 p.m. that night.

Later that morning Cecil accidentally put his tractor in reverse while making some adjustments trapping himself between the tractor and another piece of equipment, and pinning his left leg under the tractor’s rear wheel.

 Whilst trapped he etched on the tractor fender using his pocketknife.

“In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris.”

At 10:30 that night he was found by his wife and taken to hospital where he later died from his injuries. Although conscious until the time of his death, Cecil made no mention of the Will

Neighbours discovered the message the following day. The fender was removed from the tractor and the court admitted it into probate as a valid holographic Will. Although the message was brief there was no doubt that it expressed Cecil’s wishes

The fender remained on file at the Kerrobert Courthouse until 1996. The knife and fender are now displayed on the main floor of the University of Saskatchewan College of Law library.

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