A French court agreed Tuesday to hear a lawsuit over the inheritance of France’s biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday, amid a bitter feud between the singer’s widow and children. Hallyday’s two biological children, Laura Smet and David Hallyday, are fighting his widow Laeticia for a stake in the singer’s millions after they were written out of his will. Hallyday’s death from lung cancer in 2017 triggered an outpouring of grief over France’s answer to Elvis Presley, a star since the 1960s.
His estate, worth several tens of millions of dollars, includes multiple properties as well as luxury cars and the rights to his 1,160 songs. The court in Nanterre, a suburb west of Paris, ruled that the singer, whose real name was Jean-Philippe Smet, lived primarily in France, a decision hailed as a victory for his children, who have been fighting for more than a year after he left his fortune to Laeticia and their two adopted daughters. In France, the right of children to their parents’ estate is protected, but Hallyday and his wife had been living in the US for years before his death, and his will had been rewritten under Californian law.
However the court determined that “up to the end he lived a bohemian and nomadic life, but above all a very French life that led him to live… usually in France.” Laeticia Hallyday is planning to appeal the decision, her lawyer said. “I will not try to hide my amazement and dismay at this decision,” said the lawyer, Ardavan Amir-Aslani. “Indisputable factual elements have been ignored in favor of misleading arguments presented by the other party.”
Hallyday’s daughter Laura Smet was “extremely moved” by the decision, her lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas told reporters. “She’s been fighting… for more than a year in very difficult circumstances,” he said. “An American court would be completely unfit to rule on this case, which does not involve a single American. “The attempt by Laeticia Hallyday and her counsel to evade French jurisdiction over the settlement of this succession has clearly failed. It was a stalling tactic.” Laeticia Hallyday had argued in March that she and her husband had lived in Los Angeles since 2007.
But the court said the rock star had left a will that year claiming he lived in Switzerland and that his in heritage should be “settled exclusively in accordance with Swiss law”. The court also said he lived in France “for eight months before his death”. The star’s son also located his father through Instagram posts, claiming he spent 151 days in France in 2015, and 168 days in 2016.-AFP