Pennsylvania fans of musician Ric Ocasek may be aware that at the time of his death in 2019, he and his wife of 30 years, Paulina Porizkova, were going through a divorce. Although they were still living in the same house when he died and Porizkova discovered his body, Ocasek had written a new will in the final weeks of his life, shortly before having surgery, that excluded her and two of his children as beneficiaries.

Usually, if a divorce is in progress when a person dies, the distribution of the estate progresses normally since the couple was still married. However, Ocasek took it one step further. He stated that Porizkova had “abandoned” him. Under New York law, abandonment is a legal distinction that would disinherit Porizkova of the part of the estate she would be entitled to as Ocasek’s spouse despite being disinherited.

With this language, the executor of Ocasek’s will can challenge efforts by Porizkova to contest it. However, Porizkova can present evidence and testimony in court to counter the charge of abandonment, and the judge may agree with her. For example, based on social media postings by Porizkova, the relationship still appeared amicable. Depending on what assets Ocasek had and whether any were shared, around $1.7 million or more could be at stake.

People who are involved in estate litigation and disputes may want to consult an attorney regarding the process for defending or contesting the estate plan. There are a number of situations in which an individual might want to challenge a will. For example, a person may feel that a loved one was unduly influenced by a family member or a caregiver into making changes to a will. A person might also challenge whether an individual was of sound mind when creating or changing an estate plan.