Naomi Judd Left Daughters Out of Her Will — Validity of Document Is Now Being Questioned

Naomi Judd, who struggled with severe depression for years, died by suicide at age 76 on April 30, 2022. She is survived by her husband of 32 years, musician Larry Strickland, and her two daughters, duo partner/country singer Wynonna Judd, 58, and actress/activist Ashley Judd, 54.

Naomi died a day before she and her daughter Wynonna, of the Grammy-winning duo The Judds, were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

Judd Named Her Husband Executor of Her Estate

Naomi named her husband as the sole executor of her estate, which is quite common, though it frequently creates family squabbles when the spouse is not the parent of the decedent’s children. According to the will, he has “full authority and discretion to do what he sees fit with properties within the estate, including selling or leasing them, without approval of any court or the joinder of any beneficiary.” Strickland is also entitled to “reasonable compensation for his services and any expenses, including attorney and accountant’s fees,” according to the document. All of these are common provisions in a will. In the event that Strickland can’t serve as executor, Judd appointed her brother-in-law, Reginald Strickland, and Daniel Kris Wiatr, as co-executors, the will states. Wiatr is president of Wiatr & Associates, a business management and accounting firm.

Judd’s Will Leaves Nothing to Her Daughters

What is less common is the fact that Naomi Judd apparently disinherited both of her daughters, and her grandchildren, leaving her entire estate — estimated to be valued at approximately $25 million — to her husband, Larry Strickland. If Strickland were the father of Naomi’s daughters, this type of distribution would be common, but with an estate of this size and with Naomi‘s children being from a prior marriage, this kind of distribution is somewhat unusual.

News that Naomi did not include her children or grandchildren reportedly came as a surprise to the entire family.

Reportedly, Larry Strickland has no biological children of his own, so it is quite possible that he intends to leave some or all of his wealth (including the wealth he is now inheriting from his deceased wife), upon his death, to his stepdaughters, which would be a common occurrence, though whether he plans to do this is unknown, and even if he does plan to do this, his wishes could of course change at any time prior to his death. Had Naomi wished to benefit her husband during his lifetime and ensure that remaining funds were left to her daughters, she should have used a living trust to hold her assets during her lifetime and subsequently during the lifetime of her husband. In fact it is quite shocking that she did not use a trust to distribute her assets upon her death but rather a will which becomes part of probate records and is therefore public for all to see.

Daughters Had Periods of Bitterness and Estrangement with Their Mother

Judd’s will was signed in November of 2017. There are many reasons why she may have left everything to her husband in her will and nothing to her children:

  • “Naomi trusted Larry like no one else, so that’s probably the reason,” says a family friend.
  • Ashley’s and Wynonna’s relationship with their mother is said to have had many ups and downs. “There was too much trauma, abandonment, addiction and shame,” Ashley wrote about growing up poor with her sister and single mother in her memoir All That Is Bitter and Sweet.
  • Wynonna has also had money problems throughout her adult life. According to a source in a recent OK! article, “(s)he’s blown through every dollar she made with The Judds. She even checked into a treatment facility in 2004 for a ‘money disorder!’”
  • As mentioned above, she might have left everything to her husband with the understanding that he would leave everything to her children upon his subsequent death.
  • Perhaps Naomi has other assets passing to her daughters outside of probate (not through the will), such as life insurance or retirement accounts naming her daughters as beneficiaries; this is unknown according to publisher reports and would likely never be public knowledge. If she did have life insurance naming her daughters as beneficiaries, death by her own hand would most likely nullify those insurance policies
  • Although unlikely given that her will does not mention a trust, it is possible that Naomi did have a trust set up to benefit her children. Again, this would not be a public record and would likely never be known.

Validity of Naomi Judd’s Final Will Questioned Due to Handwriting Discrepancy

In a recent article in OK!, it was stated that the validity of Naomi Judd’s handwriting on her will has been called into question.

“The initials and signature are traced — they are not written by her,” handwriting expert and private investigator Peggy Walla said about the legal document. “That means someone put a lighter piece of paper over her regular signature and traced it,” Walla explained. “It doesn’t have fluidity. Usually when you are signing your name – the pen is already in motion when it starts to hit the paper and it gives it a feathered look where these are intentional ‘starts and stops.’”

“If you look at the top of the O in Naomi – the top of it is cut off and there is no reason why it should be cut off like that,” Walla noted. “You and I sign our names every day and we don’t have to think about how to form the letter, or if it looks right, we don’t think about stuff like that. The (pen) pressure is the same all the way across – the starting and stops of the initials are blunt instead of feathered – like someone intentionally started and stopped.”

There has been talk of Wynonna contesting her mother’s will, and now she may have a basis for doing so. According to a family friend, “Wynonna and Naomi were a good team musically. Wynonna believes she contributed to her mother’s fame and fortune — that’s why she was surprised. She thought she deserved something.”

Mental Illness Is Very Serious — Get Help if You Need It

In her final years, Naomi Judd had been an outspoken mental health advocate. Judd first began to struggle with depression in 2012, following the wrap-up of a tour with Wynonna. Memories of sexual abuse and other childhood traumas that she had experienced in the past began to surface, causing her to enter into a state of deep depression. In an interview with Robin Roberts for Good Morning America back in 2016, with medication-induced trembling in her hands, she revealed her diagnosis, emphasizing the intensity of her condition. She spoke of the disconnect between how the public sees her and her reality behind closed doors.

She said, “(t)hey see me in rhinestones, with glitter in my hair, that really is who I am. But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks, and not get out of my pajamas, and not practice normal hygiene; it was really bad…What I’ve been through is extreme; my final diagnosis was ‘severe depression: treatment resistant’ ‘cause they tried me on every single thing they had in their arsenal and I really felt like if I lived through this, I want someone to be able to see that they can survive ’cause there’s 40 million of us out there.”

When she spoke about her family, she once said, “(m)y family — Ashley, Wynonna, and Larry — were just beside themselves. When you see somebody you love who is suffering so deeply, and there’s nothing you can do, it’s almost as hard on you as it is on the person suffering, especially when you love each other as much as the four of us love each other.”

As you can see from Naomi’s comments and those of many others who have suffered from depression and other forms of mental illness, mental illness is serious and should be properly treated. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, be sure they get the help they need. If you or a loved one has thoughts of suicide or of causing any harm to yourself or others, please call or text the new National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for assistance.

Do You Have a Loved One Who Is Depressed?

If have a loved one who is lonely and/or feeling isolated or depressed, spend some time together (and make sure he or she gets professional help, if needed). Please see my article, “Depression and Suicide Prevention: What to Do When a Loved One is Depressed,” for tips and resources.

If you or your loved ones don’t have their estate planning, incapacity planning, or long-term care planning in order, please be sure to contact us for an appointment for a no-cost introductory consultation:

Fairfax Elder Care: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Care: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Care: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Care: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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