Musician Jean-Michel Jarre and his sister rejected by the ECHR concerning their father’s inheritance

The French electronic music composer Jean-Michel Jarre and his sister Stéphanie, who challenged before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the decisions of the French courts depriving them of the inheritance of their father, the musician Maurice Jarre , were dismissed on Thursday February 15

Musician Jean-Michel Jarre and his sister rejected by the ECHR concerning their father’s inheritance

The French electronic music composer Jean-Michel Jarre and his sister Stéphanie, who challenged before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the decisions of the French courts depriving them of the inheritance of their father, the musician Maurice Jarre , were dismissed on Thursday February 15.

“The Court sees (…) no reason to depart from the reasoning of the [French] courts to the extent” in particular where the ECHR “has never recognized the existence of a general and unconditional right of children to inherit part of their parents' property", notes the Court in its judgment, rendered unanimously by the seven judges.

The French courts “verified that the applicants were not in a situation of economic precarity or need”, continues the court based in Strasbourg, which agrees with French justice. This judged that Maurice Jarre had the right to disinherit his children, Jean-Michel Jarre, 75 years old, and his sister Stéphanie, 58 years old.

Disinherited by the establishment of a “family trust”

Installed in the United States in the mid-1960s, winner of three Oscars for the composition of the scores for the films Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and The Road to India and died in 2009, Maurice Jarre bequeathed all his property to his last wife , Fui Fong Khong, via a “family trust”, a legal structure provided for by Californian law, which the two applicants had unsuccessfully challenged before the French courts.

In French law, you cannot theoretically disinherit one of your children, under the principle of “hereditary reserve” which does not exist in Californian law. But in the Jarre case, the Court of Cassation ruled in 2017 that ignoring this “hereditary reserve” was “not in itself contrary to French international public order”. In short: this is not necessarily an essential principle according to the highest French court. The latter had considered that the French law did not have to apply to that of California in this case.

The ECHR considers that the French courts “respected the testamentary freedom of the deceased” whose wishes reflected a “continuous and well-defined” approach to allowing their surviving spouse to benefit from all of their property”, without “fraudulent intent”.

“The ECHR validates the “testamentary freedom of the deceased” which exempted his estate from French law. The contentious “saga” of the international succession of Maurice Jarre is thus closed (echoing other famous successions, including that of Johnny Hallyday...),” commented jurist Nicolas Hervieu, specialist in European law, on X.

The contested succession of Maurice Jarre came to light at the start of the legal battle over Johnny Hallyday's inheritance, between his widow and the rock star's two eldest children who are contesting their father's American will having disinherited them in under California law.

In a similar case, the European court also dismissed on Thursday three children of Michel Colombier, arranger of Serge Gainsbourg and Madonna, who died in 2004 and who had also organized his estate via an American “family trust”, excluding them from his inheritance. The two requests, introduced in 2018, constituted an “unprecedented” subject for the ECHR, a spokesperson said at the time.