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L'Oreal Heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, Subject to Guardianship

The second richest woman in the world, Liliane Bettencourt, has been declared mentally unfit to manage her affairs by a Judge in France a few days ago.  The decision grants control of her financial affairs to her only child, daughter Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, and grandsons Jean-Victor and Nicolas.  Bettencourt-Meyers has been fighting for years to protect her 88-year old mother, who has been victim to financial exploitation to the tune of more than one billion dollars, according to an earlier lawsuit.  Liliane Bettencourt

Bettencourt suffers from “mixed dementia” and “moderately severe” Alzheimer’s disease, according to a medical report relied on by the Judge in making her decision.  Her mental decline sparked a family court fight.  It began three years ago when Bettencourt-Meyers started a lawsuit to protect her mother from photographer Francois-Marie Banier, who she claimed had charmed the elder Bettencourt out of assets worth almost one billion euros (about 1.4 billion dollars).  She also named Banier as sole heir in a new will and as beneficiary to vast life insurance policies.

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Trial over L'Oreal heiress sparks French political scandal

It's been more than 18 months since the daughter of France's richest woman sued to protect her from a man described as a "dandy" who had received more than $1 billion (U.S. value) in gifts from the owner of cosmetic giant L'Oreal.  You can read The Probate Lawyer Blog's last article on the case here.Lillianebettencourt

The daughter of 87-year-old Liliane Bettencourt sued Francois-Marie Banier, a 63-year old (male) celebrity photographer who reportedly has befriended Johnny Depp, Salvador Dali and others.  Banier claims the lavish gifts of cash and art masterpieces were given to him by Bettencourt when she was mentally competent as a thank-you for his years of friendship and help as an advisor.

Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, was permitted to sue Banier criminally last year.  This means that if she wins her lawsuit, Banier will not only have to return the money, but also face jail time.  The case was set for trial late last week.

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L'Oreal fortune fight leads to interesting criminal case

It's been almost a year since The Probate Lawyer Blog featured a story on the court battle over whether the heiress to the L'Oreal fortune has been a victim of fraud and exploitation.  87-year old Liliane Bettencourt has been called Europe's richest woman.  In the article I wrote last December, I explained how Bettencourt's daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, sued to prove that a celebrity photographer had received gifts from the elder Bettencourt of more than one billion dollars by preying on her mental frailty.  Liliane-bettencourt

The gift recipient, Francois-Marie Banier, and Bettencourt said she was competent and made the gifts of her own free will because they were dear friends.  And yes, they said, it's a lot of money, but considering her fortune has been recently valued at $13 billion (U.S. value) by Forbes, it's not that much money.  (Anyone buy that?)

I had suggested last year that I found it odd that Meyers hadn't started a guardianship proceeding to have her mother declared legally incompetent.  Well, now she has tried that, but the effort failed because Bettencourt refused to submit to a medical evaluation of her mental state, even though a doctor who reviewed her medical records apparently felt she needed a guardian (that doctor's report is what Meyers relied on for her guardianship filing).

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Exploitation of France's richest woman? Her daughter says yes, but she says no!

Liliane Bettencourt is considered to be France's richest woman.  She inherited the controlling share of L'Oreal (if you're a man and don't know what L'Oreal is, ask your wife or girlfriend).  She presently owns about 28% of the cosmetics company and has an estimated fortune worth 23 billion dollars (U.S.).  Yet her only daughter, Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, filed a lawsuit alleging that her 86-year-old mother is incompetent and is being taken advantage of by an artist and photographer described as a "dandy" and a "charmer" according to this article in The Australian.

Meyers' lawyer charges that Francois-Marie Banier has exploited Bettencourt to the tune of more 1.3 billion dollars in "gifts".  Bettencourt strongly disagrees.  She says she was examined by a psychiatrist a couple days before Christmas and proved she was competent.  She calls Banier a long-time friend of 20 years, both to her and to her late husband.  While she admits giving him valuable gifts, including a Picasso and a Matisse, the value is small compared to her total net worth.

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