French court agrees to hear lawsuit over Johnny Hallyday's will

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Nanterre (France) (AFP)

A French court agreed Tuesday to hear a law suit over the inheritance of France's biggest rock star Johnny Hallyday, amid a bitter feud between the singer's widow and children, who want a US court to handle the will.

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, in the Paris suburbs, 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 based in the US for years before his death and his will had been rewritten under Californian law.

Laeticia Hallyday is planning to appeal the decision, her lawyer said.

"I will not try to hide my amazement and dismay at this decision," lawyer Ardavan Amir-Aslani said. "Indisputable factual elements have been ignored in favour of misleading arguments presented by the other party."

Laura Smet's lawyer Emmanuel Ravanas said the court's decision was "very important" as it "recognises Johnny Hallyday's attachment to France, and that therefore, an American court would be unfit to rule on this case".

Laeticia Hallyday had argued in March that she and her late husband had lived in Los Angeles since 2007. However, the court said the rock star had left a will that year claiming he lived in Switzerland and that his inheritage should be "settled exclusively in accordance with Swiss law".

However the court 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.