Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?

EiffelIn most of America, the question is not whether you can disinherit your child, but whether you should. A parent has every right to decide to completely block their assets from transferring to a particular offspring. In France, that is not the case. Under French law, for an estate with three or more children - such is the case with Johnny Hallyday - at least 75% of the estate must be divided equally among the children. Hallyday took the American approach and named is widow as the sole heir of his estate, estimated in the tens of millions.

The children from Hallyday's previous marriage filed in France, and obviously want French law to prevail. So the question truly is: was Hallyday more French or American, so what was his domicile? He had a home in both countries and died in France. From his stage name to his musical choices, the lifestyle he portrayed was much more American, though he was known as the "French Elvis" and very few Americans knew of him. He married a French-born American as his second wife, and she claims that he had plans to become an American citizen when they moved to Los Angeles. When he died in 2017 from lung cancer, hundreds of thousands of mourners flooded the streets at his funeral.

Though the court has yet to answer the question of which country has jurisdiction, the case has brought forth many questions from French citizens. The idea of forced heirship is derived from the French Revolution, when the reformers wanted to break up the wealth of the aristocracy. Now, parents are curious if they are required to leave assets to children that "have given them nothing but misery."

See Pamela Druckerman, Should You be Able to Disinherit Your Child?, New York Times, May 28, 2019.

Special thanks to Matthew Bogin, (Esq., Bogin Law) and Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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