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Live in LA, write your will in LA

Johnny Hallyday was the most famous rockstar in France. He was a French citizen and was mourned by the entire nation when he died there last December.

Despite this, Hallyday declared his official residence here in Los Angeles, mostly to avoid the steep French taxes. He also wrote his will here, under California law. When he disinherited his oldest children, the French legal system cried sacre bleu! That’s not how it is done in France. But the will is valid and the legal process highlights how probate often works across borders.

Children disinherited

The question arose when it was discovered that Hallyday, aka Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, wrote his two eldest children from previous wives out of his will. With the attention of a nation on them they held everything together for the funeral, but shortly afterwards filed a lawsuit contesting the will in Paris.

Under French law, it is illegal to disinherit your children. They claim in their contest of the will that this law must apply to a French citizen who did, in fact, die in France.

But it is not that simple, especially since this California will is apparently the only one known for Hallyday.

Resident of Los Angeles

It was quite well know that Hallyday was a resident of Los Angeles. He came in part for tax reasons, favoring the lower rates on income here in the United States. He was interviewed here by many magazines and was understood to be living here by press and tax authoirities alike.

That’s more than good enough to establish residency, a requirement for filing a will in good legal standing. As such, there is no question that Hallyday’s will is legally binding.

Will France accept it?

It is very rare for another nation to refuse to accept a legally filed will from another nation. Doing so is considered routine for many reasons. In general, nations respect each others’ probate customs, especially when residency has been so clearly established.

This will not be an easy case for the spurned elder children of Hallyday to prove as a result. Despite his citizenship and place of death, Hallyday made it clear that he was indeed a Californian. That means that California law applies to his estate, regardless of where in the world any property or belongings are.

French courts may try to intervene, but it is unlikely as they have little precedent for doing so. But the situation is worth watching to see if a case can be made.

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