No doubt about it, wills and inheritance can cause family ructions—even more so, if you’re rich and famous.
A recent case in the news proved the universal truth: where’s there’s a will, there’s a family row waiting to happen. Here, it applies to the family of the late singer Johnny Hallyday.
The French rock-and-roll singer and actor (whose real name was Jean-Phillipe Leo Smet) was sometimes called the French Elvis or “the biggest rock star you’ve never heard of” in English-speaking countries.
He died in December last year from lung cancer at the age of 74. The singer had been married five times, with the first four marriages ending in divorce. His final marriage lasted twenty-one years.
Johnny Hallyday’s will left his entire estate to his last wife, Laeticia and their two adopted children. The will was drafted in California, and is being contested by Hallyday’s other children, Laura Smet and David Hallyday. Their lawyers contest that Hallyday’s existing will violates French law, which prevents children from being disinherited.
The French film star Brigit Bardot weighed into the argument on French radio in February, urging Hallyday’s widow to give some of the money back to Johnny’s older children, who were left with nothing.
Bardot said she was “disgusted” and that if she were Laeticia, she’d put things right by giving David and Laura what they deserve.
France’s inheritance laws date back to the French Revolution. Roughly, they mean all children should be given an equal share of an estate. Hallyday had a home in California and was domiciled there for tax reasons.
The French rock legend, Eddy Mitchell, also argued that David and Laura should receive their fair share, saying he didn’t understand why someone would disinherit their children.
Danny Curran, Finders International’s founder and managing director, said: “Johnny Hallyday’s case is notable as the late singer’s will seems to ignore the central point of French inheritance laws – that your children are specifically protected from being disinherited from your estate.
“In French law, part of your estate is earmarked for your descendants and that’s called la reserve, whereas the part of your estate that can be freely disposed is called quotité disponible. La reserve must be held for your children. A spouse is entitled to a minimum of a quarter of your estate. Under French law, Hallyday’s four children are entitled to three quarters of la reserve.
“It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court.”
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