All About Estates

The Famous Tractor Case

This Blog was written by: Taylor Sergeant

When I read about this famous case out of Saskatchewan it immediately spoke to me: my father is a farmer, and anytime I hear anything about tractors or farming, my ears perk up, and I am always immediately interested.

The facts:

June 8, 1948, Cecil George Harris, a farmer in Rosetown, Saskatchewan, went to work, and tragedy hit in the field. When he didn’t return home as expected, his wife and two children checked on him in the field and found him under the tractor wheel. His family got Cecil out from under the tractor; however, he died in the hospital the next day. When Cecil was under the tractor, unsure if he would live, he carved into the red paint on the tractor fender, “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to my wife,” and signed it.

The fender was removed from the tractor, and the court found that the tractor fender was a valid holographic will and that Cecil’s assets were passed to his wife as per his wishes.

This case is known as one, if not the strangest, holographic will in Saskatchewan’s legal history.

The point:

It is essential to take the time to complete incapacity and will planning no matter your age or profession. In Cecil’s case, the court ruled that the tractor fender was a valid will, and the estate was transferred to his wife; his wishes were honored. From an estate administration point of view, this situation could not have gone better. The court accepted the fender, the holographic will wasn’t contested, and the assets went to his wife as he had wanted.

Let’s say that no one found the tractor fender or the court didn’t find the fender to be a valid will, and Cecil lived in Ontario; I am switching provinces because Ontario is where I live; Cecil would have passed away intestate. In Ontario, that would mean that the first $300,000.00 of the estate, the preferred share, would go to his wife, and the remaining balance of the estate would be split three ways between his wife and two children. This contradicts what Cecil wanted: “I leave it all to my wife.” Although it’s an uncomfortable topic, it is an important one.

I hope this blog inspires a reader to take some time to think about what they would want for their estate and take the time to engage a lawyer to prepare a will or review the will they have to ensure it properly reflects their wishes.

About Scotiatrust

1 Comment

  1. Holly Ann Knott, KC

    August 31, 2023 - 4:12 pm

    And if anyone wants to see the piece of the tractor fender, it’s on display at the Law Library, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. I was just there yesterday to see the Christi Belcourt dot art piece ” Every Dot a Prayer for the Saskatchewan Rivers”. Admission is free.

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