Challenge to rock star’s will by children

The children of Johnny Hallyday, the French rock star who died aged 74 in December 2017 from lung cancer, are to challenge his will in the French courts.

Actress, Laura Smet and her half-brother David Hallyday are contesting their rock star father’s will after finding that he had left his estate to Laeticia, his fourth wife, and the couple’s adopted daughters.

Lawyers for Smet argue that the California-drafted will is in contravention of French laws preventing the disinheritance of children.

Could this happen in the UK?

Probably not. Despite increasing numbers of second (or more) marriages and tension between those born to them when it comes to inheriting, there are no enforced heirship laws in this country and seemingly limited scope for claims by adult children.

On the facts of this case, the elder children would need to show that it was unreasonable for them not to receive provision for their maintenance from their late father’s estate. What is or is not reasonable in this context is determined by a range of factors, including the size of the estate, the resources of those claiming and the needs of those already standing to benefit. It is difficult to see how the needs of adult children could surpass those of an infant, particularly if they have already received significant support.

This dilemma is not unique to rock stars and can arise in any scenario where there are elder children from previous marriages. A balance has to be struck between making provision for a very young child who is bound to be entirely dependant on his or her parents and not excluding older offspring whose needs are not so immediate but who do not deserve to be disinherited simply because there is a younger mouth to feed.

Solutions can be found by deferring any capital distribution until the youngest child reaches an age at which they can be considered self sufficient or by the use of term insurance in trust to provide for elder children without eroding what is available to their younger siblings.

“L’amour peut prendre froid” as Johnny sang somewhat portentously.