The death of Ric Ocasek in September at age 75 came as a shock to fans of The Cars frontman-turned-music producer. More surprises came in the days that followed.
Ocasek, who had been recovering from a recent surgery at his Manhattan home, was found by Paulina Porizkova, his wife of nearly 30 years, when she brought him his morning coffee, reported the gossip column Page Six and many other media outlets. The lanky, 1980s icon with the dark sunglasses married the Czech supermodel in 1989 and the couple had two sons. By 2018, however, Ocasek and Porizkova announced they had separated.
Divorce proceedings had started but the two were still married when Ocasek died. Then the news dropped that Ocasek had cut Porizkova out of his will. According to estate documents, Ocasek stated: "I have made no provision for my wife Paulina Porizkova ("Paulina") as we are in the process of divorcing," the new-wave icon wrote in his last wishes. "Even if I should die before our divorce is final...Paulina is not entitled to any elective share...because she has abandoned me," Page Six reported.
Despite the couple's estrangement, Ocasek's parting shot in his will stunned many, particularly since Porizkova was at his side during his final days.
Estate planning in the midst of divorce proceedings presents a difficult situation for everyone involved.
Ocasek appointed his business manager as the executor of his estate, not one of his six sons or another family member. Some might say he made a smart move naming a non-family member in charge of the administering the estate, who has a firm grasp of both the music industry and Ocasek's musical legacy with and without The Cars.
He also put his wishes in writing by signing a new will just a few weeks before he died, that excluded Porizkova, according to Forbes.
Legally, Porizkova was still Ocasek's wife when he died. Under New York law---and in most states including Pennsylvania---spouses have the right to receive an "elective" share of a decedent's estate, even if they have been disinherited. If the spouse has "abandoned" the decedent, however, that right is voided.
By stating that Porizkova "abandoned" him, Ocasek's will attempts to foreclose any claim she might make on his estate.
It remains to be seen whether Porizkova will challenge Ocasek's will. If she does, a judge will have to determine whether she "abandoned" her husband in the legal sense, among other findings.
All too often, celebrities and others leave behind a legal mess when it comes to their complicated estates, from appointing the wrong person as executor to having multiple versions of their wills or no will at all. Ocasek ensured that his will reflected his most recent life changes---separation from his wife---even if they were not yet divorced, which might help settle his estate with a minimum of drama.