French Court Uses Instagram Account in Deciding Estate Case

June 6, 2019

Mark Feigenbaum

As we’ve written about before, courts are increasingly turning to social media posts in deciding cases related to family law and estate law.

This week, the New York Times reported two stories further demonstrating how courts and governments are relying on social media to make legal decisions.

Estate Case Decided Based on Instagram

In the first story, the New York Times reported an account of a case in which a French court relied heavily on an Instagram account in decided an estate dispute.

The case centred on a celebrated performer named Johnny Hallyday, who was also known as the “French Elvis”. 

Mr. Hallyday died in 2017 and left two testaments behind. His estate was worth tens of millions of dollars.

One of these documents appointed his wife as sole heir and manager of his estate. The will also excluded both of his children from previous relationships, which is illegal in France but permitted in the United States. As a result, the children went to court to prove that their father lived mainly in France, in which case French law would apply and they could not be excluded from the estate distribution.

His wife, however, argued that his main residence was in the United States. She told the French court that the father had settled in Los Angeles in 2007, his two other daughters went to school there and he had received a green card in 2014. 

However, the father had maintained an Instagram account since 2012, which shared a mixture of his personal and professional life. His son used the photographs from this Instagram account to create a chart of his father and his father’s wife’s locations from 2012 to 2017. The resulting chart showed that his father had spent at least 151 days in France in 2015 and 168 days in 2016. The father had then spent eight months without interruption in France before his death in 2017.

As a result, the French court accepted the children’s argument, ruling that it had competence to decide on Mr. Hallyday’s estate.

Social Media and U.S. Immigration

The same week, the New York Times also reported that the United States is now requiring visa applicants to submit any information about social media accounts they have used in the past five years under a new State Department policy.

The account information required would give the government access to photos, locations, dates of birth, dates of milestones and other personal data commonly shared on social media. The State Department stated that the purpose of the request for such information is being used to improve its screening process to protect its citizens while supporting legitimate travel the country. 

Get Advice 

Family law disputes, estate disputes, and related issues can be emotionally and financially uncertain and can be one of the most stressful experiences in your life. If you are involved in a legal dispute, it is imperative to consult with and retain the services of an experienced lawyer as soon as possible so you can begin to understand your options and mitigate any legal and financial risks.

At Feigenbaum Law, our goal is to help you move forward following the breakdown of a relationship or a death in the family while retaining as much financial stability as possible. Mark Feigenbaum is able to counsel his clients on all potential risks that may result from a legal dispute. Contact Mark online or call him at (905) 695-1269or toll-free at (877) 275-4792 to book a consultation.


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