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France

French justice to decide fate of Hallyday heritage

media French singer Johnny Hallyday is kissed by his wife Laeticia as they arrive for the opening of the 51st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 13, 1998. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

A court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday ruled that the succession rights of the estate of the late rock icon Johnny Hallyday should be decided under French law. The move is a victory for Hallyday's eldest children, Laura Smet and David Hallyday, and a defeat for his widow Laeticia.

Since the rockstar's death on 5 December 2017, his estate has been contested by Hallyday's family, specifically concerning the vaidity of a last will and testament drafted and signed in July 2014. The document declared Johnny Hallyday to be a resident of Los Angeles, and therefore subject to US law.

According to the will, which was written in English, Laura Smet and David Hallyday were to recieve nothing while the musician's entire estate would pass to Hallyday's wife of 21 years, Laeticia. This is allowed under US law, but French succession rights require the deceased's estate to be shared amongst surviving children.

Laeticia Hallyday, (L), wife of late French singer Johnny Hallyday, son of Johnny Hallyday David Hallyday (R) and daughter Laura Smet (C) standing during the funeral ceremony for Johnny Hallyday at the Eglise de la Madeleine REUTERS

Proof of residence

The court in Nanterre has ruled that the singer was in fact a resident in France, not the USA, and that French law must apply in this case.

According to lawyer Pierre-Jean Douvier, who represents Hallyday's children, "the succession will be resolved under French law.

"Laetitia Hallyday will have the right to her share, but there are now five heirs," he added, the couple's two adopted daughters along with Laura Smet and David Hallyday. "Now we have to put in place the inheritance, and decide who has the right to what," Douvier continued.

A giant poster of late French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday is displayed on the facade of the Madeleine Church during a ceremony in Paris, December 9, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

Trust fund issues

The case was first brought before the courts in February 2018, when Laeticia Hallyday was called upon to annul her late husband's will.

Lawyers representing Hallyday's children claimed that the inheritance falls under French juristiction, in line with European legislation passed in 2012. The Nanterre court has now upheld that argument.

Laeticia Hallyday's legal team have called into question the competence of the Nanterre court to rule on the case, and will now appeal the decision.

A judge in California had pushed forward to 30 April a decision to transfer the late singer's estate into a trust fund, working in Laeticia Hallyday's favour, until the French court had made its decision.

According to Pierre-Jean Douvier,"the adminstrators of the trust had tried again, on 15 May, to transfer the estate out of the reach of [Hallyday's] eldest children. Today's decision by the Nanterre court now makes that a legal impossibility."

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