Rock and roll legend Ric Okasek, lead singer for the band The Cars, died in September 2019 from heart disease. The world mourned his talent and we all downloaded The Cars Essentials playlist. At the time of his death, Okasek was still legally married to his wife, former super model Paulina Porizkova. (Yes, we do wonder how super models end up linked to less than model looking rock stars – remember Billy Joel and his uptown queen of awkward music video dance moves supermodel wife Christie Brinkley?) But Okasek and Porizkova had separated in 2018 and Okasek rewrote his will after the separation to specifically disinherit his wife for abandonment.
New York law allows the disinheritance of a spouse for abandonment. It’s not easy to do, however, the law in New York does allow for this. Presumably, Okasek had the assistance of an attorney in drafting his new will. As it turns out, Porizkova knew about the new will and harbors no ill will towards her late husband.
So you may be sitting at the breakfast table consumed with murderous rage with the way your spouse eats cereal SO LOUDLY and thinking to yourself as you read this blog over coffee and teeth grinding, ‘hey, this disinheritance seems like a great idea!’. Not so fast. This is a situation where family law and estate planning intersect.
In California, community property laws govern what you can do with marital assets. All assets accumulated during the course of a marriage are considered assets of the community. This means both spouses have equal rights to the property. There are some exceptions (inheritances are one!) and valid pre-nuptial agreements can also play a role. But by and large for most couples, everything saved and earned during the marriage belongs to both of you. You cannot bar your spouse from inheriting their community property share.
What does this mean in practical terms if you still want to disinherit your spouse? Take everything you and your spouse have and divide it in half. Half is your share and you can leave it any friend, relative, or supermodel you would like. The other half is legally your spouse’s share and they can do anything they like with their share.
Confused? I don’t blame you. This is a tricky area of the law and not one that you should try and understand solely through your excellent Google search query techniques. Contact an estate planning attorney today who can talk you through the implications of disinheriting your spouse and help you draft your estate plan accordingly.
Because we completely understand – it’s not always magic in a marriage.