Why Naomi Judd may have cut Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd out of will

Naomi Judd left her daughters, performers Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, out of her will according to multiple reports. The country singer died by suicide in April at age 76.

Naomi Judd's husband, Larry Strickland, and daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, speak onstage for Naomi Judd: A River Of Time Celebration on May 15, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Naomi Judd's husband, Larry Strickland, and daughters, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd, speak onstage for Naomi Judd: A River Of Time Celebration on May 15, 2022 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: Getty Images)

Naomi appointed her husband of 33 years, Larry Strickland, as executor of her $25 million estate. Judd's brother-in-law, Reginald Strickland, and Wiatr & Associates President Daniel Kris Wiatr will serve as the estate's co-executors "in the event my spouse ceases or fails to serve," the document reads.

The document says Strickland has "full authority and discretion" over any property that is an asset to Naomi's estate "without the approval of any court" or permission from any beneficiary of the estate, The Blast and Page Six report. Strickland is entitled to receive "reasonable compensation" for his services. The will was prepared on Nov. 20, 2017 and Naomi, who had a long history of depression, was of "sound mind, memory and understanding, and not under any restraint or in any respect incompetent to make a Last Will and Testament."

Ashley and Wynonna, Naomi's only children, are not mentioned in the document. Wynonna made up one half of the musical duo, the Judds, with her mother. According to Radar, which broke the story, Wynonna is "upset" at being excluded from the will, as she "believes she was a major force behind her Naomi's success." Reps for Ashley and Wynonna did not respond to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment.

Sarah J. Wentz, Trusts & Estates Partner of Fox Rothschild LLP, tells Yahoo Entertainment it's "very common for spouses in a long-term marriage" to leave assets to their surviving partner. There also may have been a tax incentive behind Naomi's decision.

"Typically, a spouse is concerned about making sure that their surviving spouse has enough assets to live on, comfortably, at the same standard of living for their remaining lifetime," Wentz explains, noting that it's likely Naomi felt her husband "was in the best position to act as executor of her will."

Wentz adds: "Both of Naomi's daughters have very busy careers. Administering an estate is very time intensive. Naomi likely saw the executor role as a huge burden that her daughters shouldn't have to take on."

Wentz, who advises many musicians, celebrities and high net-worth individuals on estate planning, says there may be "tax reasons why 100% of the estate was given to her husband."

"An individual is allowed to give away $12,060,000 (the federal exemption) of total assets either during their lifetime or at death. Everything else must be given to a spouse or it will cause a 40% tax on the assets above the federal exemption. It is possible that Naomi already gave away her federal exemption during her lifetime. If that was the case, then giving the assets to her spouse would have been the only way to prevent estate taxes until after his death," she explains.

One of the big question marks, though, is what happened to Naomi's songwriting catalogue.

"Naomi was probably the owner of half of the songwriting and performance rights to the Judd's music catalog. If she didn't leave those rights to Wynonna then Wynonna will own half of the rights and Mr. Strickland will own the other half," Wentz notes. "Sharing the singing and songwriting rights to music catalogs has created may fights in the past. While we don't have full access to what planning was completed during Naomi's lifetime, it is interesting [if] she wouldn't have left these rights to Wynonna."

Ashley and Wynonna have been openly grieving their mother over the past four months.

"The pain of losing Mom on 4/30 to suicide is so great, that I often feel like I’m not ever going to be able to fully accept and surrender to the truth that she left the way she did. This cannot be how The Judds story ends," Wynonna, 58, wrote in May.

Ashley spoke with grief expert David Kessler on his Healing podcast a few weeks ago where she said the family — including her stepfather — have remained close after Naomi's death.

"One of the things that I think we have done well as a family, meaning my pop, my sister Wynonna and me, is we have really given each other the dignity and the allowance to grieve in our individual and respective ways," the 54-year-old actress said. "And yet we've been able to completely stick together. So we can be at the same supper table and recognize, 'Oh, this one's in anger, this one's in denial, this one's in bargaining, this one's in acceptance, I'm in shock right now.' "

Ashley continued, "I have had some of the most sacred and holy experiences with my pop. He, you know, my mom and pop and I are neighbors, and sister looks over the hill, and pop comes over every morning... I wake up and I do my readings and my writing and my meditation practice and connect with my partner. And then pop comes over and I make his coffee and his breakfast and we sit and we grieve together."

MORE: Ashley Judd pens essay on spending her 1st Mother’s Day without 'mama' Naomi Judd