This Is Who Inherited Tammy Wynette's Fortune

The first lady of country music died in her sleep. It was April 6, 1998, and Tammy Wynette, who had a history of health issues and drug dependency, died in her Nashville home while taking a nap at age 55, per the Associated Press. She'd sold more than 30 million albums and had risen from poverty, picking cotton as a child, to superstardom. But her children and grandchildren would see very little of what their mother had earned. Meanwhile, her fifth husband, George Richie, who found Wynette dead, curled up on a couch, would do very well for himself after her passing, per "Gravesites of Southern Musicians: A Guide to Over 300 Jazz, Blues, Country and Rock Performers' Burial Places."

A year and a half earlier, Wynette sat down with her children and showed them a yellow legal pad on which she'd laid out exactly how she wanted to divide up her estate in the case of her untimely death, according to Georgette Jones Lennon (via Dr. Drew). "She was almost obsessed with death and dying and talked about it a lot in that last year and a half," Jones Lennon recalled. Richey inherited the bulk of Wynette's estate after he claimed he couldn't find Wynette's written instructions.

Broken promises

Singer-songwriter George Richey and Tammy Wynette married in 1978, her fifth marriage, and he became her manager. Georgette Jones Lennon alleged Richey was controlling and abusive to her mother. At the time of her death, Wynette's estate was around $900,000, per Celebrity Net Worth. There were also two $1 million insurance policies, with the proceeds from one going to Richey and the other to Wynette's daughters to be divided equally — but Jones Lennon told Dr. Drew that didn't happen. She said Richey gave the four daughters $5,000 each and kept the rest.

Besides Wynette's house and personal property, Richey also ended up with her intellectual property rights, which he sold for an undisclosed sum to a music publisher before he died in 2010, according to USA Today. Since Richey alleged he never found Wynette's handwritten letter concerning her estate, he inherited nearly everything. "We never even received baby books, clothes, any personal items, absolutely nothing of our mother's," Jones Lennon recalled to Dr. Drew.

Wrongful death suit

Georgette Jones Lennon and her three sisters filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against George Richey and Wynette's physician, Dr. Wallis Marsh, in 1999, per the Los Angeles Times. Richey was eventually dropped from the suit. Wynette's daughters and Dr. Marsh settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, per Billboard. They had alleged Richey and the doctor had mishandled Wynette's precarious health and over-medicated her. Wynette's daughters also had their mother's body disinterred and autopsied, per CMT.

The autopsy revealed Wynette's cause of death was likely due to a heart failure and not a blood clot in her lung as Marsh had determined. The report also revealed the presence of Versed, a sedative, and Phenergan, which prevents nausea. Wynette's daughters alleged Richey had been overmedicating their mother on purpose as a means of control. "When she was taking the medication that she was being given, you could have put a coloring book in front of her and she would have signed it," Wynette's daughter, Jackie Daly, told Dr. Drew. "I think a lot of that was done on purpose for that reason. ... [Richey] knew how to work her and he knew how to get whatever he wanted at any particular time." 

Ultimately, Wynette's daughters got very little — not even their mother's items — while Richey received the bulk of Wynette's estate, per USA Today.