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Family tears itself apart in High Court battle over assets

A property magnate who built up a £600 million estate is involved in a bitter dispute with his children over £17 million of jewels, antiques and artworks at the family’s stately home in Gloucestershire.

Back in the 1960s, Manny Davidson and his wife Birgitta, who are now both in their 80s, put much of their wealth into trust funds for their children, Maxine and Gerald, both now in their mid-fifties, due to worries about inheritance tax (IHT).

However, they are now suing the children for the return of a large number of valuable chattels located in Lygrove House, the country home owned by their children.

Mr and Mrs Davidson lived at Lygrove until they moved to Monaco in 2011 but left a collection of artefacts there, including Elizabethan tankards and several Old Masters. They are currently pursuing the children in the High Court for the return of around 300 of the items, said to include an “exceptional” £13 million silver collection. However, Maxine and Gerald are counter-suing” for a further 180 items, including £3 million worth of jewellery.

The siblings bought Lygrove in 1993 but their parents say the money for the purchase came from “income distributed to them from trusts settled by the parents”. According to Manny and Birgitta, it was they who “ran” Lygrove, believing they could return to it whenever they liked after their move to Monaco.

However, the children insist the Jacobean mansion was bought as a weekend retreat for the whole family and are alleged to have barred their parents from going to the house after relations crumbled in 2015.

In fact, so bitter was the dispute that Manny and Birgitta spoke out publicly in 2015 to warn others against giving wealth to children to avoid IHT. More recently, a survey reveals that 37 per cent of people involved in trust arrangements that used friends or family members as trustees had experienced problems.

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