When the famous French singer Johnny Hallyday died, his friends became passionate about a question: who would inherit his fortune? Would it be his 4th and last wife through US law? Or David and Laura, born from previous weddings of the French star? Would US law prevail over French law that forbids to disinherit your children?
Through this case that fired the press, Leila, my Tunisian friend, made a discovery about French equality: it also applies to inheritance! Since Napoleon and his famous “code civil”, law does not make differences: brothers and sisters, daughters and sons inherit equal portions, unlike what happens in Maghreb countries and in most Muslim countries. Sharia law favors boys in the context of succession. In France, it is not God’s law but the law of the Parliament that rules the way you inherit and therefore the way the society is organized.
Leila had a revelation: “The fact that people’s law is above God’s law, that’s what you call “laïcité”!”
After quite some time spent in France, Leila is starting to better understand this French specificity. And discovering that laïcité also means equality, especially between men and women, was a major reveal for her. But to inherit equally, David and Laura still had to wait for the verdict of US law: another law decided by the people!
To go further
- “Des fans“, “une star“… Many English words found their place in the French language. Try replacing English words by their French equivalents in this exercise!
- “Déshériter“: the prefix “dés-“, when added to the word “hériter”, totally changes its meaning: it gives a negative meaning to the action. Discover other prefixes and train with an exercise here and another there
Discovering more about the subject
- A little reminder with this 3-minute animation video of what laïcité is: freedom of conscience and equality for everyone in front of the law.
- Learn more about the Napoleonic Code, which is a basis of French civil law, and the way it integrated, in 1804, the revolutionary changes related to freedom, equality and laïcité.
Johnny Hallyday had many wives, he adopted some children: he has a reconstituted family.
As Roselyne Bachelot, an ex-Minister, explains it in this video: “in France, there is not only one family model”
For the full video and many others, go to Ensemble en France’s MOOC