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In re Appraisal of the Estate of Arnot

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division

June 28, 1911

In the Matter of the Appraisal of the Estate of MATTHIAS H. ARNOT, Deceased, for the Purpose of Taxation. WILLIAM SOHMER, Comptroller of the State of New York, Appellant; JAMES B. RATHBONE and EDWARD DUNN, as Executors, etc., of MATTHIAS H. ARNOT, Deceased, Respondents.

Page 709

APPEAL by William Sohmer, Comptroller of the State of New York, from a decree of the Surrogate's Court of the county of Chemung, entered in said Surrogate's Court on the 11th day of March, 1911, affirming a prior order of said court and adjudging certain transfers of property to the Arnot Art Gallery not taxable.

COUNSEL

William Law Stout, for the appellant.

Alexander D. Falck, for the respondents.

BETTS, J.:

Matthias H. Arnot, a wealthy resident of the city of Elmira, Chemung county, died February 15, 1910, testate. He left various bequests and devises to relatives, friends, individuals and corporations. Proceedings were had in the Surrogate's Court in the usual manner to fix the amount of the transfer tax on said transfers of property due to the State. The surrogate held that certain devises, bequests and transfers by his will to a corporation to be formed known as the Arnot Art Gallery were not taxable (71 Misc. 390), and from that decision this appeal has been taken by the Comptroller.

In briefly giving reasons for the decision of this court, three sections of that will are of principal importance. They are as follows:

'Fourth. I bequeath to the Board of Education of the City of Elmira, New York, the sum of three thousand ($3,000) dollars, which sum said Board of Education of the City of Elmira, New York, or the City Chamberlain of said City as the law may provide, shall invest and keep invested, and the income each year therefrom shall be expended by said Board of Education for pictures or other objects of artistic nature and value appropriate, and to be placed upon the walls of the schoolhouses, including the Elmira Free Academy of said City of Elmira. * * *

'Twenty-third. I direct my executors hereinafter named and appointed forthwith and while my sister Fanny Arnot Haven and my niece Marion Arnot Wickes are or the survivor of them is living, to cause to be created and organized under the proper statute or statutes, of the State of New York, a corporation

Page 710

with the name Arnot Art Gallery, with capacity, and right to receive, take and hold, in the manner and for the uses, and purposes herein in a general way set forth, the property and that part of my estate I do hereinafter by this will give, devise and bequeath to said corporation. If for any reason said corporation may not lawfully have as its name Arnot Art Gallery it shall have such similar name approved by my said executors as it may lawfully bear. I give, devise and bequeath to said corporation so to be formed and created, the following described real estate and personal property, that is to say: All that part of the land and the buildings thereon now constituting my residence and known as number two hundred and thirty-five Lake street, in the City of Elmira, New York, lying between the western line of said Lake street and line parallel with said western line of said Lake street and west therefrom the distance of two hundred twenty-two and sixty-seven one-hundredths feet (222.67). Said land so devised is laid down upon a map attached to this will, and marked residence plot as parcels or part 'B,' 'C,' 'D,' 'E; ' also the following described or mentioned personal property, each and every of the paintings, engravings, etchings, photogravures, photographs, pictures and objects of art within my said residence, two glass cases and their contents being curios, and all curios elsewhere within my said residence, two busts in marble one of which is of my father John Arnot, the other designated the 'Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish,' and all statuary within my said residence, all vases and bronzes therein, the two clocks in present gallery of my said residence and the clock in the front parlor thereof; all the printed books, pamphlets and literary productions therein, cabinets, tables or stands, in or upon which any of the foregoing mentioned articles are kept or placed. It is my intention and desire that my executors construe the gift and devise of this twenty-third paragraph broadly and deliver to said corporation all articles of artistic or literary nature, appropriate to the purposes of said corporation as herein set forth; also the sum of Ten thousand ($10,000) dollars; also the sum of Two hundred thousand ($200,000) dollars to be paid or delivered to said corporation in bonds or securities of my estate at their par value. I empower and direct my said executors to hold, possess,

Page 711

care for, protect and manage all of the real estate and personal property mentioned and described in this paragraph twenty-third of my will, until the creation of the corporation as I have herein directed and thereupon to transfer and deliver to said corporation the entire of the said real estate and personal property and therewith such instruments of conveyance, assignment and transfer as they shall be advised are necessary or desirable.

'The purpose of this gift and devise effected by this paragraph twenty-third is or may be two-fold: The primary and fundamental purpose thereof is to establish, under the perpetuity of corporate ownership and management, and endow an institution which shall have the City of Elmira, and my residence therein as its seat and permanently own, possess, protect and continually add to a collection of objects of art of real merit and enduring worth and interest, to which the public shall have, under reasonable regulations, free access. The secondary purpose thereof is to establish and endow a library, exclusively for reference and not to any extent for circulating uses which owned, maintained and enlarged by said corporation shall be accessible and free, under proper regulations, to all who may seek aid therefrom. It may be, however, that the income from said corporation will be inadequate for the two ...


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