Why Naomi Judd left daughters Ashley, Wynonna out of will: lawyers

Naomi Judd’s decision to name husband Larry Strickland executor of her will is not uncommon, but may be perceived as a slight to daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd, a legal expert exclusively tells Page Six.

“It is common to name the spouse as the executor of a will. But leaving out her daughters seems pointed, like a purposeful act on Naomi’s part,” attorney Holly Davis exclusively tells Page Six.

Naomi – who died by suicide on April 30 – chose to name her husband of 33 years as the executor of her estate, according to court documents obtained by Page Six on Monday.

Criminal defense attorney Jason Goldman tells Page Six the county superstar was “likely advised” to pick her spouse over her two daughters because it would be “cleaner and less contentious.”

“Despite having the opposite intent, wills typically become notoriously difficult to interpret when overly specific,” Goldman says. “When you then factor in the existence of numerous children, a longer, divided will is inevitably a recipe for misinterpretation and disaster.”

In the will, the “Love Can Build a Bridge” singer requests her husband to have “full authority and discretion” over any property that is an asset to her estate “without the approval of any court” or permission from any beneficiary of the estate.

It is unclear if Wynonna, 58, or Ashley, 54, are beneficiaries of any of their mother’s assets – since their names were not mentioned in the will at all.

However, Goldman clarifies that this does not confirm or deny whether the two have trusts that were set up by their mother prior to her death.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MAY 15: Wynonna Judd, Ashley Judd, and Larry Strickland attending CMT and Sandbox Live's "Naomi Judd: A River Of Time Celebration."
Wynonna and Ashley Judd, seen here with Larry Strickland, were likely left out of the will to avoid any misinterpretation, one expert says.
Getty Images for CMT

“The will itself did not mention Naomi’s hard assets, which may have already been bestowed upon the children through title transfers,” the New York-based lawyer, who did not work on Naomi’s will personally, tells us.

In regards to any inheritance of the “River of Time” author’s estimated $25 million fortune, Goldman says that Strickland, 76, can “set up an inheritance in line with what he believes Naomi would have wanted for the children” as executor.

Naomi Judd standing in front of a step-and-repeat.
Naomi Judd died at age 76 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Getty Images

Davis also notes that it is “possible” that Naomi had already taken care of her daughters with their own trusts, or perhaps prior gifts before passing away, but their exclusion from the will “is noteworthy.”

“Naomi Judd had struggles with her mental health and with depression, which ultimately led to her suicide — that much, we know,” the founding partner of Kirker Davis LLP concludes. “But not knowing if there is tension between her spouse and the daughters, if there is an issue or tension between the husband and the daughters, we will find out if there will be a will contest via probate lawyers in the coming days.”

Naomi Judd, Ashley Judd and Wynonna Judd on a red carpet.
Ashley and Wynonna Judd announced their mom’s death on April 30.
WireImage

The attorney who prepared Naomi’s will has not responded to repeated requests for comment on further insight into the “Grandpa” singer’s mindset when signing her will on Nov. 20, 2017. Her publicist also declined to comment.

Naomi – who suffered a life-long and public battle with depression – died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Wynonna and Ashley have both commented on losing their mother to mental illness, but have not spoken out yet about the conversation surrounding the late singer’s will.

“If the daughters believe that Naomi was unduly influenced in her final months or years by her spouse, such that they claim he influenced the outcome of her will in a fraudulent way, that could result in a claim on behalf of the daughters,” Davis says.

Reps for Wynonna and Ashley did not return Page Six’s request for comment.

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