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Johnny Hallyday’s adult children fight for a piece of his estate

Ludovic Marin, AFP | The four children of late French singer Johnny Hallyday and his wife Laeticia Boudou at his memorial service on December 9, 2016, in Paris.

The stormy personal life of French rock icon Johnny Hallyday made him favoured fodder for gossip magazines. Now, two months after his death, the children from his early marriages are contesting his will, which left everything to his widow.


In early December the French-speaking world mourned the loss of music legend Johnny Hallyday, whom French President Emmanuel Macron called a “French hero”.

During a nationwide homage to the singer days after his death, David Hallyday, 51, and Laura Smet, 34 – children from two of Hallyday’s early marriages – stood by Laeticia Boudou, his fourth and final wife (to whom he was married for more than 20 years) and the two little girls the couple had adopted together. It was a picture of solidarity in grief.

Today that picture was shattered with an announcement from Smet, an actress, saying that she had asked her lawyers “to carry out all legal actions” to contest her father’s will. Hallyday left his entire estate and the rights to all his music to his widow Boudou and, in the event of her death, to the two young girls they adopted together in Vietnam, Jade and Joy.

>> The ‘French Elvis’: Johnny Hallyday's life in pictures

David Hallyday is a co-plaintiff in his sister’s suit. He is the son of 1960s French pop star Sylvie Vartan, and Smet is the daughter of French actress Nathalie Baye.

“Laura Smet is stupefied and hurt to learn that her father's will leaves all his wealth and rights to his wife Laeticia, using California law," her lawyer said in a statement to AFP.

A lawyer discusses Hallyday's contested will

Hallyday died on December 5 and was later buried in St. Barth, where he and his wife had a home.

Smet’s lawyer said that she was not left anything to remember her father by, not even the sleeve of the record, “Laura,” that her father had dedicated to her.

The will was written in California, where Hallyday spent much of his later years, and is therefore subject to Californian law. Smet’s lawyers say the will contravenes French law, which holds that a wife generally must share her husband’s estate with his children. It is illegal to disinherit your offspring in France.

Normally, a wife has the right to a quarter of the deceased’s assets while the children are entitled to three-quarters of the estate, lawyer Pierre Hourcade told FRANCE 24. But Hourcade said there is no way of knowing which jurisdiction will end up prevailing in Hallyday’s case.

“Usually, French law recognises California wills,” he said, citing a French Supreme Court precedent.

Hallyday never gained much recognition outside of France, but was a legend in his native country. A motorcycle fanatic, his funeral cortège through Paris was escorted by hundreds of bikers. Bikers followed the coffin to his burial site in St. Barth’s as well.

Born Jean-Philippe Leo Smet, the singer took his stage name from the American relative who introduced him to rock 'n' roll, Lee Halliday.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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