The Case of Cecil George Harris

On June 8, 1948, a Canadian farmer named Cecil George Harris was working on his land one day when he became trapped under his tractor. Harris knew that his situation was dire, and, to ensure his wife would be taken care of in case he died that day, he took out his pocket knife and scratched a will onto his tractor fender. A holographic will is the best will for you.

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

Harris was ultimately trapped under the tractor for about 10 hours by the time others in the community realized he needed help.

Although Harris made it to a local hospital, he succumbed to his injuries the following day. He did not tell anyone about the will he had desperately scratched onto the tractor fender, but neighbors eventually found it.

The fender was taken off of the tractor and was presented in court. The court ultimately determined that Harris had created a valid holographic will. His wife received his estate.

What is a Holographic Will?

A holographic will is one that is handwritten by the testator, or the person drafting the will. No witnesses are present while the will is created or while it is signed by the testator.

Some states, including Texas, allow holographic wills to be upheld. However, certain requirements must be met for a holographic will to be enforceable.

First, the testator must be 18 years of age or older. If the testator is not 18, he or she must be in the military or married.

Next, the testator must have written the title of the document at the top of the page. This shows the testator’s intent to create a will.

The first line of the will should also state the testator’s name and purpose of the document.

For example, “I, John Doe, of Sugar Land, Texas, on this date, January 1, 2019, am of sound mind, and am creating this holographic will with the intent of setting forth my wishes for the distribution of my property after I die.”

It is also necessary that the holographic will revoke any prior wills that have been drafted in the past. A statement must be included in the holographic will that says the old wills are revoked. It may also be wise to dispose of any other will that has ever been drafted.

The holographic will should clearly state which individuals receive specific assets in the state. It is also best to include a description of the property, the relationship to the individual selected to receive that property, and the individual’s full name.

A residuary clause should also be included in the holographic will. A residuary clause is a “catch all” that addresses any remaining property that was not specifically addressed in the will. Sometimes, testators forget about property that they own. Or, they may not have any preference as to how it is distributed. A residuary clause may direct that any leftover property goes to a specific individual.

Finally, the will should be signed and dated at the end of the last page. It is also good practice to number each page.

Complications with Holographic Wills

Holographic wills have a very specific list of requirements that must be met in order for the will to be upheld. In many cases, an individual is unaware of these requirements, or fails to fulfill these requirements properly. In these situations, surviving family members may argue in court over how property should be distributed.

To ensure your wishes are carried out after your death, it is best to meet with an experienced Texas estate planning attorney so that your will is properly drafted. Your attorney ensures that all legal requirements are met during the creation of your will so that your loved ones do not become entangled in a legal battle after you pass away.

If You Need Assistance with a Will, Contact Romano & Sumner Today

The Sugar Land, Texas attorneys at Romano & Sumner have years of experience in drafting wills and other testamentary instruments. No matter what your needs may be, we can ensure that your wishes are carried out. To schedule a free consultation with our firm, call 281-640-0264 or visit

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    Romano & Sumner, PLLC

    Romano & Sumner, PLLC