Where There’s A Will (Part Two)

Cecil George Harris

In Part 1, I shared the cautionary tale of David, a client who for many years did not realize the potential consequences of not making a will. However, it is equally important, once you have a will, to keep it up to date.

A Dramatic, Last-Minute Will

Cecil George Harris became pinned under his tractor on June 8, 1948. He remained trapped for ten hours before help arrived. Realizing he was in grave danger, Cecil used his pocketknife to etch the following words into the fender of the tractor, “In case I die in this mess, I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris”. He never imagined that bit of panicked knifework would become an example used in law schools and textbooks around the world.

After Cecil died in hospital, the courts determined his etched fender to be a valid holographic or handwritten will that left no doubt as to his wishes, and it became a legal precedent. In 1996, the famous tractor fender and pocketknife were put on display at the College of Law library at the University of Saskatchewan.

Drafting Your Will on Your Own

Although usually less dramatic than Cecil’s circumstances, many people only create their will when a crisis or life event grabs their attention and motivates them to put a plan together. Cecil (and his wife) were lucky his handwritten will was accepted by the courts but drafting your own will without the help of a lawyer often leads to unintended complications or delays. It can even be ruled invalid if there is ambiguity around what it says or the capacity of the individual at the time the will was written. A proactive approach to estate planning and drafting your will is far more rewarding and ensures your wishes can be followed.

Both David and Cecil George Harris’ experiences illustrate the importance of having an up-to-date will, but the truth is just over half of all Canadian adults do not have one. How about you? Will your estate assets be distributed as you wish, and in the most tax efficient manner? Or is it time you created or updated your will?

It’s important to have an up-to-date will, but most Canadian adults don’t. In the second part of a three-part series, Peter Dryden looks at the famous example of Cecil George Harris that became a precedent by law.

In Part 3, I will look at the way Darlene used her Abundance Canada Generosity Plan™ to not only manage the charitable gifts in her will, but to tell an intriguing story of generosity.

Contributed by Peter Dryden
Gift Planning Consultant

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