Wynonna Judd and her late mother, Naomi Judd, were always upfront about how their relationship went through some rocky times, but they always talked about how they loved each other deeply.
Now Naomi Judd’s decision to name her husband, Larry Stickland, as executor and primary heir may have reignited tensions, according to a new report. Wynonna, 58, and her younger sister, Ashley, 54, are left out of their mother’s will, and Wynonna is speaking to attorneys about challenging the will that names Naomi’s husband of 33 years as executor of her $25 million estate.
In April, fans of country music were shocked and saddened by news that Naomi Judd died by suicide at age 76. In a statement, Wynonna and Ashley Judd said they lost their “beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.”
More surprising news came this week with RadarOnline, The Blast, Page Six and Us Weekly reporting that the country music star didn’t name either of her daughters in her will. The Blast said it was able to confirm the existence of the document, which said: “I nominate and appoint my spouse, Larry Strickland, as executor of my estate.”
Page Six reported that Naomi Judd executed the will in 2017. According to the documents, Naomi Judd, who suffered a life-long, public battle with sometimes debilitating depression, was of “sound mind and disposing memory” when she signed and approved the will .
Sarah J. Wentz, a Florida-based attorney who handles trusts and estates for high-net-worth families and individuals, told Yahoo that she didn’t see anything unusual in Naomi Judd naming her husband of 33 years as executor and leaving her remaining assets to him. She also said there 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 said, noting that it’s likely Naomi felt her husband “was in the best position to act as executor of her will.”
A source close to the family told Us Weekly that Wynonna and Ashley Judd could still stand to inherit from their mother, adding that both are listed as beneficiaries of a trust their mother established.
“It is likely they will inherit money through that once it is administered,” the insider said, but Strickland, their stepfather, was still the “administrator and head of the trust, so he really is in control of the whole estate.”
RadarOnline, which first broke the news about the will, reported Tuesday that Wynonna was “upset” by her mother’s decision. Wynonna and Naomi made up the country music duo that performed together as The Judds. Wynonna, who was generally seen as the lead vocalist of the duo, “believes she was a major force behind her mother’s success,” RadarOnline said.
As The Judds, Wynonna and Naomi Judd were enormously popular throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, Deadline reported. They sold more than 20 million albums, put out 20 Top 10 country hits and won five Grammys, nine Country Music Association awards, and seven Academy of Country Music awards.
The Judds stopped performing as a duo in 1991 after Naomi was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, Deadline reported. Wynonna began a successful solo career, but the two occasionally reunited for special tours, and were set to embark on a final tour together this fall.
RadarOnline reported Tuesday that Naomi Judd’s will “has sparked a bitter battle” between Wynonna and Ashley, with Wynonna believing that Ashley is siding with her stepfather and her late mother.
A source close to Ashley Judd told RadarOnline that Naomi was concerned about leaving Wynonna a large amount of money because Wynonna has had “money problems throughout her adult life.”
As with her other life struggles, Wynnona Judd has been upfront about her money troubles, which she said stemmed from suddenly being a rich and successful music star in her late teens after growing up the daughter of a poor single mother.
Wynonna Judd told Good Morning America in 2011, “I traveled, I took friends, I rented jets. I loved the great rock star lifestyle.” Her extreme spending became serious enough that she ended up in rehab for money troubles and filed for bankruptcy.
Both Wynonna and Naomi Judd have also talked about how their relationship was sometimes fraught. In a 2016 interview with Good Morning America, Naomi Judd said her depression and anxiety complicated her relationship with her eldest daughter. “We bore the brunt of all of the mistakes I made and we talk about ’em,” she said. “We’ve been through a lot of therapy together.”
The Judd family matriarch also said their relationship had healed some but that they were “still a little estranged.”
“I love her but there are just times we need a break from each other… And that happens with mothers, daughters,” Naomi Judd told Roberts.
At the time, Wynnona Judd took to social media to dispute the idea that she and her mother were estranged.
“Funny, I was just with her last week & I’m now reading that this week we are estranged. Gosh, you didn’t know! Wow.”
Funny, I was just with her last week & I’m now reading that this week we are estranged. Gosh, you didn’t know! Wow. #That‘sShowBiz https://t.co/vKGTiTaZLO
— Wynonna (@Wynonna) December 7, 2016
It appears that the mother-daughter relationship had healed enough that they were about to embark on their tour. Unfortunately, Naomi Judd died the day before she and Wynonna were expected to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, CNN reported.
Wynonna and Ashley Judd rallied to attend the ceremony, with Wynonna saying, “I’m gonna make this fast, because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed.”