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Builder comes out on top in Will dispute

View profile for Kirsten Edberg
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The High Court has recently ruled in favour of a builder after the Will, in which he was named as sole beneficiary, was challenged by three beneficiaries from a previous Will for the deceased. Kirsten Edberg, Private Client Lawyer, reviews the case and advises those who are considering contesting a Will that the process is a complex one.

Mr Butcher made a Will in 2011 which named his cousin and two children of a close school friend as beneficiaries of his estate. One of these children, Evelyn Hutchins, was appointed as the executor. In January 2013, Mr Butcher asked Danny Sharp, a builder he had befriended in the previous few years, to visit. It was during this visit that he read out a new Will which named Mr Sharp as the sole beneficiary of his whole £472,000 estate. Mr Sharp stated that he was shocked by the contents and asked Mr Butcher that he was certain of his decision, to which he said he was and did not wish to discuss the matter.

Mr Butcher passed away in May 2013.

“It was at this point that the three beneficiaries from the 2011 Will became aware of the new wishes of Mr Butcher,” begins Kirsten. “Ms Hutchins went on to represent the three of them during the proceedings and challenged the Will on the grounds of want of knowledge and approval on the part of Mr Butcher; meaning that they did not believe he understood or approved of what he had done at the time of writing the new Will.”

Mr Sharp was asked to prove that the Will of January 2013 was valid, which was when he gave his evidence to Court on the visit to Mr Butcher’s residence. “During her deliberations, the Judge used Mr Sharp’s evidence when applying what is called the two-stage test; she had to consider whether Mr Butcher understood what was in the 2013 Will when he executed it and secondly whether he understood the effect it would have,” continues Kirsten. The Judge ruled that she was ‘satisfied that the 2013 Will was executed with the knowledge and approval of Mr Butcher and that he intended it to give effect to his testamentary wishes.’

“The Judge decided that even though the Will was homemade, it was consistent with the Wills Mr Butcher had made previously in 1991, 2003 and 2011, strongly suggesting that this was also produced by him,” explains Kirsten. “Mr Butcher also had capacity and was an educated man who had drawn up this Will in a short and easy to understand format with two witnesses, one of them being his financial advisor. She also found that Ms Hutchins concern that Mr Sharp was not close to Mr Butcher was unfounded as it was clear that Mr Sharp was kind to the deceased and visited him regularly.

“While a homemade Will can be suspicious if there are any challenges, it normally is not a successful claim unless there are a number of other associated issues such as spelling mistakes, irrational wishes or witnesses or are not independent,” concludes Kirsten. “There are many factors to consider when challenging a Will and each and every case will be different depending on the parties involved, the size of the Estate and the circumstances surrounding the deceased. It’s important to note that if you are considering challenging a Will you will need legal advice, but better still obtaining that legal advice at the time of making a Will can avoid future claims, which ultimately end in more financial and emotional stress for the loved ones.”

If you’re looking for advice on making a Will or you’re after advice to contest a Will, then you can contact Kirsten on 01329 222075 or visit their section of the website here.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.