Celebrity Estate Lessons: Liliane Bettencourt
March 21st, 2022
It's quite possible that you've never heard of Liliane Bettencourt, but I'd bet you've heard of L'Oreal, the company she ran. If you have heard of her, it's likely because she was, at one time, the world's richest woman. Or from the well publicized "Bettencourt Affair."
The legal filings over her estate began in 2007, nearly ten years before she died. In 2007 and 2010, Liliane's daughter, Francoise Meyers filed suit in French court to gain Guardianship over her mother in an effort to protect the estate. After accusations of tax fraud and "gifts" worth millions of dollars (including an island!) to a society photographer, the daughter worried that her mother's mental health had declined to a point where she could no longer control her own finances. In 2010, the court agreed.
Now for the juicy gossip: as part of the 2010 suit, a butler supplied recordings he had made due to a concern that staff were taking advantage of a woman suspected to have Alzheimer's. The tapes revealed that she had made the photographer, a man named Francois-Marie Banier, her sole heir.
But the bigger scandal came from the revelations that Bettencourt had been evading taxes and giving illegal campaign contributions to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
In 2015 a judge found Banier guilty of fraud and sentenced him to 3 years in prison. His boyfriend, Bettencourt's former wealth advisor Patrice De Maistre, and another advisor were also given various sentences.
We spend a lot of time on here discussing Wills and Trusts, but there are other documents that are part of an estate plan that guide your loved ones if you are still alive but incapacitated. Living Wills, powers of attorney, and related documents are important and allow you to outline who you would like to make decisions for you if you're not able to yourself. If you have questions about these, and other documents that are part of a full estate plan give us a call and let us help explain them.