Mr Butcher, 75, a bachelor from North London changed his Will to disinherit his cousin and two family friends and left his entire estate valued at £500,000 to a builder who had reportedly cleaned his gutter without charge.
The previous beneficiaries of his Will claimed that Mr Butcher did not know and approve the contents of his Will. However, their inability to provide evidence to support this led the court to uphold the Will in favour of builder, Daniel Sharp.
Mr Butcher and Mr Sharp met in 2009 and remained friends after the original gutter-clearing job.
Mr Sharp would pop in to see Mr Butcher whenever he was in the area for a chat about sport and other shared interests. Press reports suggested that Mr Butcher's family did not know of the builder and said that Mr Butcher hated sport! They insisted Mr Sharp knew more about the contents of the Will than he admitted.
The Will was changed two months before Mr Butcher’s death.
The Judge described Mr Sharp as “a truthful and straightforward witness” and did not find any of the circumstances surrounding the signing of the Will to be suspicious. Initial claims that the signature on the Will was a forgery were incorrect and suspicions about Mr Sharp's honesty could not supported. Further Mr Sharp had rebutted any suspicion that Mr Butcher did not fully understand what he was doing when he signed the Will.
The Judge was, resultantly, entirely satisfied there was sufficient evidence to conclude that Mr Sharp had discharged the burden of proving that Mr Butcher understood what was in the 2013 Will when he signed it and its effect.
The case is a reminder that the Courts are wary of ruling in favour of blood relatives where there appear to be no suspicious circumstances other than the person was elderly and so there may be an assumption that they had been duped into changing their Will.