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Lonely pensioner’s gift of his fortune to a local builder is upheld by the court

When Ronald Butcher died his body was not found for two months.  It then turned out that he had left his entire fortune to a local builder, who had once cleared out his gutters, but refused any payment several years ago.  Thereafter would drop in to see Mr Butcher from time to time whenever he was in the area. He did not profess to know Mr Butcher well, but considered him a friend.

Mr Butcher had executed an earlier will in 2011 appointing his cousin and two adult children of a close school friend, who called him Uncle, as the beneficiaries of his estate and it was one of these who applied to have the will disallowed.

There was no issue that the will was not properly executed or that Mr Butcher did not have the capacity to make his last will.  The challenge was that because the bequest was so unusual, the suspicion must be that Mr Butcher did not fully understand or approve its contents. The builder, Mr Sharp then had to show that the will was valid.

The Judge found that the will was valid, for reasons including the fact that it was in a similar form to his previous one, that it had been witnessed by his financial advisor and that Mr Butcher showed and read the will to Mr Sharp.

There had not been any rift between the previous beneficiaries and Mr Butcher. But he was a lonely man and he found a male friend in Mr Sharp, somebody he could chat to. They shared an interest in DIY and Mr Butcher liked to hear about Mr Sharp's son.

Had the will been drafted by a solicitor there would have been a full will file detailing the reasons for the bequest and this may have avoided the litigation

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