In the recent case of Estate of Harold Franklin Campbell (Re), 2023 ONSC 4315, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice concluded that the handwritten notes of the deceased served to revive his final will and testament.


Harold Franklin Campbell passed away on June 11, 2020, survived by his two children from his first marriage, Christopher and Lisa, and his second wife, Carol. Following the death of his first wife, Harold executed a Will on March 15, 1996 (the "1996 Will"), designating Christopher and Lisa as estate trustee and alternate estate trustee, and equal residual beneficiaries.

Harold's marriage to Carol on October 28, 2000, automatically revoked the 1996 Will under the provisions of section 16 of the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA). Section 16 of the SLRA stipulates that wills are revoked by the subsequent marriage of a testator, except in certain limited circumstances. It is noteworthy that this particular provision has been revoked for marriages occurring after January 1, 2022.

Harold subsequently created two handwritten notes on November 16, 2016, and June 9, 2017 (referred to as the "Holographs"). These notes, signed by Harold, were affixed to the inside cover of the 1996 Will. The November 16, 2016, note outlined specific items Harold wished to be given to Carol, while the June 9, 2017, note detailed his preferences regarding the handling of his remains.

In 2023, Christopher initiated a court application seeking a small estate certificate and directions regarding the validity of the deceased's will. The central question before the court was whether the two handwritten notes, referred to as the Holographs, effectively revived the 1996 Will.

Christopher argued that the Holographs constituted valid revivals of the will under section 21.1(1) of the SLRA, which empowers the court to order the validity and full effectiveness of a document expressing the testamentary intentions of a deceased, even if not properly executed.


In its ruling, the court determined that the November 16, 2016, note effectively revived the 1996 Will, validating and reinstating its force. This note revealed Harold's belief in the will's validity on that date and his intent to modify it by creating a holograph specifying bequests to Carol. However, the court justified the revival under section 19(1)(b) of the SLRA, which states that a revoked will or part of it can be revived by a codicil made in accordance with the law, demonstrating an intention to give effect to the revoked part.

Consequently, the reliance on section 21.1(1) to revive the 1996 Will was deemed unnecessary by Justice Chang, who oversaw the application. The Holographs were recognized as codicils, serving to give effect to the 1996 Will.

The court emphasized that interpreting section 21.1(1) should not involve “reading into” a document an intention to revoke, alter, or revive a will. Instead, the primary purpose of section 21.1(1) was to grant the court jurisdiction to validate a document not meeting SLRA requirements but still reflecting the testator's intentions based on the document and extrinsic evidence. In this instance, the Holographs failed to provide evidence of Harold's intentions concerning the 1996 Will.

In his decision, Justice Chang emphasized that "a testator's intention cannot be created out of whole cloth," underscoring the paramount importance of giving effect to the testator's intentions with respect to their testamentary instruments or documents.

This post was co-authored by Kelli Preston and Articling Student, Owais Hashmi.

“This article is intended to inform. Its content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon by readers as such. If you require legal assistance, please see a lawyer. Each case is unique and a lawyer with good training and sound judgment can provide you with advice tailored to your specific situation and needs.”

[1] Estate of Harold Franklin Campbell (Re), 2023 ONSC 4315