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When Oscar-winning composer Sir Malcolm Arnold died in 2006, aged 84, he left a will bequeathing his house, his car, his valuable manuscripts and a half-share in the annual royalties from his compositions to Anthony Day, who had helped him overcome his alcoholism and cared for him for the last 22 years of his life. The remainder of his estate was divided equally between his two children, Robert and Katherine Arnold.
Robert and Katherine challenged their father’s will. They claimed that he had been subjected to undue influence and that a collection of musical scores held at the Royal College of Music had been gifted to them. Mr Day argued that Sir Malcolm was fully aware of what he was doing when the will was made in 1990.
Sir Malcolm composed a large body of work comprised of orchestral works, choral works, chamber music, film scores (including the music for the 1957 film ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’) and stage works (including the musical Sweeney Todd). The annual royalties from his compositions are estimated to be in the region of £200,000 whilst the manuscripts at the centre of the dispute are valued at £250,000.
In the view of the High Court, Sir Malcolm had not made a gift of the bulk of his scores to his children. The Court found that the composer was of sound mind when his will was made and he had clearly owed Mr Day a ‘very great debt of gratitude’. He had wished to make a gift of the last manuscripts to Mr Day who, in 1984, had stepped in to look after him at a time when he was suffering from mental illness and had been made a ward of the Court of Protection. Sir Malcolm clearly credited Mr Day with helping him recover, as evidenced by a letter from the composer granting his friend the score of his Ninth symphony because it would not have been written without him.
Mr Day was also awarded 22 years’ holiday pay amounting to £62,500.
Robert and Katherine Arnold were ordered to pay Mr Day’s costs of £140,000.
Will disputes between family members and beneficiaries who have cared for the deceased in their final years can be very bitter and emotionally charged. Sir Malcolm Arnold’s children have yet to say whether they are planning to challenge the High Court’s ruling.