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Award-winning composer handed manuscripts to children as ‘gift’, court rules

Court rejects separate claim of undue influence against Sir Malcolm Arnold's carer

8 April 2013

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The eldest children of Sir Malcolm Arnold were entitled to manuscripts handed over by their father despite the composer's collection being separately recorded as a gift to his carer, appeal judges have ruled.

The Oscar recipient, who died in 2006, sent several boxes of artefacts to his daughter, Katherine, explaining in a separate note to his son Robert that the contents were to be shared between the two of them.

Overturning a High Court judgment that favoured beneficiary and long-term carer Anthony Day, Lord Justice Lloyd said there was no doubt "that a gift was intended and that the gift was to both children".

The boxes, which included books, wine, cutlery and some of Sir Malcolm's manuscripts, were sent unannounced to Katherine when the composer of the film score to The Bridge on the River Kwai moved to a smaller house in 1976. The note to Robert read: "All the books, pictures, sculptures, etc. are for you and Katherine to share and keep, or sell if you like!"

In response to argument over what constituted "etc" the judge said: "It was of more than just the three categories of item mentioned specifically. It was of these 'and the rest'. It seems to me that 'the rest', here, can only mean everything else in the boxes."

Gift definition

At first instance, the High Court found there was no clear evidence of a gift "rather than a transmission of the items for safekeeping".

At appeal, the judge applied the legal test to determine gift or bailment. He said: "A chattel may be given by one of three methods: a deed of gift, a declaration of trust or delivery. With delivery, something is needed to show the basis of the delivery to be a gift, but this may be relatively informal..."

He said the boxes were delivered and Katherine did not reject them. The legality depended on Sir Malcolm's intention.

Appeal rejected

The family lost a separate appeal against five cash gifts to Day totalling £36,000.

Their claim that, as the attorney under the enduring power of attorney, Day was unable to carry out any instructions to make the gifts was rejected.

Instead the appeal confirmed that Sir Malcolm had never lost capacity to make relatively simple gifts and that Day, as joint account holder, had signed the cheques under the bank mandate.

The amounts could be rationally explained in terms of inheritance tax.

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Wills, Trusts & Probate