“Media Storm Surrounding Naomi Judd’s Estate” by Attorney Beth Burgee (Audio)
Naomi Judd passed away on April 30, 2022. There have been many in the media commenting on the fact that her two daughters, Wynonna and Ashley Judd, were not included in her will. Naomi’s husband of 33 years, Larry Strickland, was named as representative of her estate. However, it is unclear who the beneficiaries are at this time. There is also mention of a trust created by Naomi and these beneficiaries are unknown as well. Larry may be the sole representative of the estate, but he has a fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries.
It is not uncommon to see one spouse leave everything to the other spouse. In fact, a good number of people set up their plans this way. However, there might be more to consider when spouses have separate children. In Naomi Judd’s case, Larry was not the father of Ashley and Wynonna. If Larry is the sole beneficiary, then once the assets are transferred to him, they are his and he may leave them in his estate plan to whomever he wishes. Meaning, Ashley and Wynonna could ultimately receive nothing. We do not know the relationships between Wynonna, Ashley, and Larry, but at the end of the day he would not be required to leave anything to Naomi’s daughters.
If you are creating an estate plan with separate children from your spouse, this is an important factor to consider. If you want your children to inherit from you, but are worried that your spouse may not name your children as beneficiaries should you die first, there are some estate planning strategies that can help.
First, you can name them outright as one of your beneficiaries. So in Naomi’s case, she could have named Ashley and Wynonna as beneficiaries of her will along with Larry. Then Larry, as the representative of Naomi’s estate would distribute the assets left to them in the will. This is the easiest way to ensure your children inherit from you.
However, there may be reasons that you do not want to name your children directly. Perhaps your children are still very young or maybe you want your spouse to be able to use more money than what would be available to them if you named other people as beneficiaries. This brings us to another method that may be used; namely, the creation of a revocable living trust with fractional planning. This strategy would make it so that upon Naomi’s death a Survivor’s Trust is created for Larry and a Family Trust is created of which Ashley and Wynonna can be named as beneficiaries. A trustee is named for the Family Trust and this trust is not distributed until the death of Larry, who is a lifetime beneficiary of the Family Trust. Larry, however, may not have the power to change the beneficiaries of the Family Trust. This means that Wynonna and Ashley would inherit the assets from the Family Trust upon Larry’s death. With this plan, Larry still inherits from Naomi and even has some rights in the Family Trust, but Wynonna and Ashley are protected more than just relying on Larry to leave them something upon his death.
Again, at this time it is unclear who the actual beneficiaries of Naomi’s estate are. She may have even used one of the methods described above.
Estate planning is a complicated area and there are many things to consider when deciding how you want your assets to be handled upon your death. It is even more challenging in this day and age with different family dynamics. Remember to consider these dynamics when making your plan, and to update your plan whenever the dynamics may change.
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