The holograph (Will) of Cecil George Harris at 75: A Canadian legal lesson

The death of Cecil George Harris is a sad story but one that delivered a legal lesson for other provinces in Canada. What is even more interesting is the fact that had the tragic accident which occurred in Pleasant Valley near Rosetown in Saskatchewan, happened at the same time (June 8th, 1948) in Alberta, the outcome would have been very different.

You see up till February 1, 2012 (inception date of the Wills & Succession Act, S.A 2010), Alberta was a “strict compliance” jurisdiction. This simply means that the formal requirements involved in the creation of a will had to be followed strictly or else the will was invalid. Such a strict requirement means that the painstaking effort of Cecil George Harris to communicate his testamentary intentions would have been invalidated.

This strict compliance led to hardship and frustration in many cases. The Wills & Succession Act S.A 2010 was introduced to relieve the hardship caused by the strict compliance requirement of the former Act. Section 37 empowered the court to validate a non-compliant will, Section 38 empowered the court to validate a non-compliant alteration and Section 39 allowed for the rectification of a Will.

This does not mean that any document which purports to represent the intentions of a testator would automatically be held to be a Will by the court. There are still basic elements of a formal Will (i.e., testator’s signature) which is crucial. Ultimately, the court evaluates the unique circumstances of each case in arriving at a decision.¹


How can we help you?

If you or your relative wants to make a will or conduct estate planning, the expertise of a lawyer is important to ensure that a legacy is created which meets the legal requirements and represents the intentions of the testator.

At Hayes-Fry Law, we are knowledgable about Wills & Estates, and are ready to help you keep your story alive and protect the people you love.


The following resources were relied on in the preparation of this blog:

  1. LESA – Wills & Estates – Non-compliant Wills – When Those Scribbles on A Napkin May Actually Be a Will.