Ric Ocasek, the talented and eccentric frontman of the eightie's band, The Cars, died in September of this year at the age of 75. Unfortunately, Ocasek's Will contained an apparent zinger for his estranged-wife, beautiful, eighties supermodel, Paulina Porizkova.
Porizkova and Ocasek married in 1989. In 2017 after a long marriage and two children, they separated. Despite the separation, Ocasek and Porizkova appeared to be on very amicable terms. In fact, it has even been reported Porizkova was taking care of Ocasek at the time of his death as he recovered from surgery.
About a month before his death, on August 28, 2019, Ocasek executed a will. According to Page Six, the will stated,
“I have made no provision for my wife Paulina Porizkova (“Paulina”) as we are in the process of divorcing,”
“Even if I should die before our divorce is final … Paulina is not entitled to any elective share … because she has abandoned me.”
Since the story broke, Ocasek has been cast as a sad, lonely man and Porizkova has been getting grief for "abandoning" him. But is the will as harsh as it seems? As an estate planning attorney, I don't think so. I have no personal knowledge of the facts of this case other than what has been reported but here's my view. Although the provision in the will sounds harsh to non-legal ears, to an estate planning attorney, it sounds - normal. The provision contains standard legal language for anyone who is separated from a spouse and in the process of divorcing. Words that at first glance seem to be emotionally charged, such as "I have made no provision for my wife" and "she has abandoned me" are specific legal catch phrases designed to tell a probate court that Ocasek didn't accidentally leave Porizkova out of his will and she wasn't entitled by law to an elective share.
The provision doesn't mean that Ocasek was sad or a victim. It doesn't even mean Ocasek left Porizkova nothing. Ocasek may have provided for Porizkova in a completed property settlement incident to the divorce proceeding, in a trust, or in a beneficiary designation outside of his will.
At most, the Will provision may mean Porizkova either moved out of the marital home first or asked to end the marriage first and therefore lost the right to claim what's known as an "elective share." This may have been by agreement. Will provisions like this are necessary due to marital rights. Spouses can normally claim an elective share by virtue of being married. Therefore, if you are estranged from your spouse, it is important to document the separation and include a provision stating you are not living together as spouses. (For more about the elective share in North and South Carolina, see an earlier blog post.)
Therefore, I wouldn't jump to conclusions about either Ocasek or Porizkova from his will. Instead of viewing Ocasek as a sad, lonely man, I'd rather remember him this way. Enjoy!
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