Inheritance planning, is often a deliberate activity.
In my day, granted it was so long ago it might as well have been during the Boer War, university libraries were somewhat stuffy places.
They housed books and microfiche equipment.
These days they harbour computers – something about multimedia. Then, as now, libraries have little in them worthy of comment.
I’m assured that if one were north American and had it in mind to study the law, one could do worse than the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. You’d expect it had a library. You’d be surprised if said facility had much worthy of commemoration.
In the long ago, there was this flatmate of mine with a tendency to confuse the British Museum with the British Library. Donna was a riot. Yet sometimes there is some cause for such confusion.
Death, Often Unheralded
I imagine the start of 8th June 1948 was no different from the beginning of any other day for Cecil George Harris, though eventually, it was to be his last day at work.
He enjoined his wife he’d be working till about 10 that evening. It was a late spring day, why waste prime work time. He was a farmer.
Working alone, he attempted some adjustments to his tractor. The vehicle, by some unplanned occurrence, went into reverse. Cecil got pinned under the machine, but his hands were free. He then contrived, with a penknife, to etch on to the mudguard of the tractor: “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris.”
Once, for fewer than 10 seconds, I was trapped in a lift. The panic that enlisted itself as my faithful bodyguard was of considerable profundity. I thus experience vicarious horror at the thought of this fellow’s predicament.
The farmer was rescued, but in the period of his entrapment, six consecutive matches of association football could have been played. He was taken to hospital.
A Lie at Ten Paces
Conscious all the while, Cecil told no one of his informal will. Alas, by the third day he was dead.
As the story goes, nosey neighbours discovered the etching in the tractor mudguard while sating their rubber-necking urges.
The local court in Kerrobert, Saskatchewan accepted the mudguard as Mr Harris’ last will and testament.
On seeing this mudguard, held in evidence by the courts until 1996, one can but marvel at the tidiness of the script, considering the circumstances of its production.
Like a trout to a fly, armchair detectives among you might muse – who really did the writing? Were the interested parties fortunate as being able to find a Brutus to transact their crimes?
But such uncharitable thoughts are beneath you. Stop it. Save those unkind thinkings for me.
The mudguard and the accompanying penknife are now exhibits at the library of the local university, the University of Saskatchewan College of Law.
Inheritance Planning, Properly
Smart folk. Sensible people, of whom you’re a number, commit their testamentary instructions to paper.
They sign their wills before two witnesses. They take their inheritance planning beyond merely leaving all to their spouse or partner, allowing inheritance tax problems to grow and mature for future generations of their families—much like a baker would leave yeast to ferment.
The university regards Cecil Harris’ will as a mere curiosity, a joke, a ‘look what we found at the back of the cupboard’ frippery. In fact, the university literature lists the fruit of this farmer’s work under ‘See What We Found
–A Collection Of Campus Oddities’.
You’re of too great intelligence to wish your family’s future financial wellbeing be regarded at best as a mere object of curiosity—an object of ridicule by university undergraduates who would write it up as a campus oddity.
What to read next: Keeping Your Family’s Inheritance