24 July 2019

Dum di dum di dum di dum…

By Miranda Marshall, Director, Hayes + Storr.

Trust and charity lawyers across the country are bristling at the lack of basic research by the writers and producers of the long-running radio soap (or rural docudrama) ‘The Archers’. Perhaps we should get out more!

By way of background: June Spencer who plays Peggy Woolley, the matriarch of the eponymous family, and who has just celebrated her 100th birthday in real life, has been rewarded by a special plot line in which she stars. It has dramatically, set some cats among the pigeons of the various Archer family strands, whilst satisfying the current zeitgeist of environmental awareness. All very apposite!

Originally, Peggy set up a ‘Family Charitable Trust’ with a sum of half a million pounds to be awarded to a farming family member with the best sustainable environmental idea. No actual action seemed to be a requirement. Her son Tony who has farmed organically for decades has taken umbrage (Ambridge?) and is boycotting it in protest against the jumping-on-the-fashionable-bandwagon brigade. All very jolly!

Now Peggy, following passionate lobbying by her socially-conscious cleaner Emma Grundy, has decided to open it up to the entire population of Ambridge, not just her family.

This is a wise Inheritance Tax-planning move, as the Trust now stands a better chance of satisfying the fundamental Public Benefit Test necessary for to achieve charitable status. Perhaps the BBC did take legal advice, after all?

There is a long history of illustrious lawyers following The Archers. My tutor at university once told me she did her weekly ironing listening to the Sunday omnibus edition. A highly respected Chancery QC became passionate about this legal faux pas at a recent conference I attended and told me later that she knew the little that she did about rural life through the show.

Oddly, canny Peggy (iron fist in a velvet glove) took advice about setting up the trust from her Financial Adviser, a smooth operator in a Range Rover with blacked-out windows. Let’s hope that his professional indemnity insurance is up to scratch. There is history of The Archer members being ripped off by dodgy financial advisors and there seems every chance that could happen again.

Peggy has now announced that the advisor has found Trustees for her; when those most suited to the role are right in front of Peggy’s nose and already known to listeners. Escaped Ab Fab character, Peggy’s daughter Lilian, is to be the Trust Administrator, which promises some true slap-stick potential, darling!

The Archers has always been kind to its lawyers. They have been credited with decency and (not always legally-accurate) competence, as well as a rare and modern diversity. Both Usha Gupta, a solicitor married to the Ambridge vicar, and Anna Tregorran, a “high-flying barrister”, who successfully defended Helen Archer against a charge of attempted murder, when sensationally, she stabbed her coercive-controlling psychopath of a husband Rob Titchener come across as good women.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you would like further advice on this matter please contact Miranda on 01328 710210. If you require advice on any other legal matter call 01328 863231 or email law@hayes-storr.com.