Estranged Wife of Cars Singer Ric Ocasek May Still Have Rights To His Assets
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
September 3, 2020
At the time of Ric Ocasek’s death, he was legally married to model, Paulina Porizkova. The couple of 30 years were still close to their two sons. But they weren’t together.
The lead singer of The Cars had been separated from Porizkova since 2018. In his Last Will and Testament, he claimed that Porizkova was not entitled to any share of his estate. This estate includes millions in copyright protected assets, cash, and other property.
Porizkova doesn’t exactly agree with the terms laid out in Ocasek’s Last Will and Testament. The will was updated around two weeks before Ocasek’s death. During that time, Porizkova claims that she was helping Ocasek recover and was even the one that found him dead of natural causes (Ocasek suffered from heart disease).
So what happens now? Is Porizkova out of luck? Not exactly. Due to their legal status, she could potentially receive a hunk of Ocasek’s estate. That’s precisely what would happen in Florida.
This is a cautionary tale for anyone who is updating their estate plan. Simply stating that you don’t want your estranged wife or husband to inherit your estate won’t necessarily hold them back.
The Rights of Election
Under New York law and similar laws in Florida and other states, Porizkova has the ability to petition the court for The Right of Election. If a court in New York approves the position, Porizkova could receive $50,000, or ⅓ of Ocasek’s net estate. This right exists for all legal spouses of a deceased person who is not satisfied with the amount left to them in their spouse’s Last Will and Testament. Even if the decedent explicitly leaves the spouse out of the Will, like Oscasek did to Porizkova, the spouse can still file a petition.
Porizkova may be able to get the share sooner if Ocasek’s executor approves her petition. However, the executor may also claim that the petitioner “abandoned” the decedent and does not have rights to the decedent’s estate.
Rights of Election in Florida
Ocasek and his wife lived in New York. Florida’s rules called “elective share” are similar but slightly different.
In New York, spouses can petition for up to $20,000 of the spouse’s intestate share if the former couple had children that survived past the decedent. If there are no children involved, the spouse could petition for the spouse’s entire estate if they left no Last Will and Testament.
If the decedent did leave a Last Will and Testament, the surviving spouse can petition for 30% of the net probate estate.
The spouse does not have the right to petition for non-probate estates or out-of-estate real estate owned by the decedent.
What Does This Mean For You?
The divorce process can take years. Don’t put off estate planning. If you are seeking a divorce against your spouse and do not want them to touch your estate, you have options. For example, you can put your assets in a trust and name your children as beneficiaries.
The right strategy for your estate may not be the same as the right strategy for your neighbor’s estate. Reach out to a Florida estate planning lawyer for more information on how to best arrange your estate so it goes to the right people after your death.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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