Doctor’s profit sharing plan not recoverable by slain wife’s estate

August 25, 2016

The estate of a woman whose husband shot and killed her and himself just hours after they married is not entitled to any funds from the husband’s profit sharing plan based on Indiana probate law, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded Thursday.

Dr. George Samson killed Kelly Ecker on Oct. 5, 2014, and then killed himself in their Terre Haute home. Ecker’s estate filed a claim against Samson’s estate for $5 million. Others filed claims against the state, including Samson’s three daughters, Jennifer, Maria and Katherine.

At dispute is whether Samson’s profit sharing plan and trust was a non-probate asset not recoverable by the personal representative for payment of the Samson Estate creditors. The plan was valued at approximately $567,000. The judge, on cross-motions for summary judgment, ruled in January that the profit sharing plan was not a recoverable asset.

The COA concluded that Samson was in total control of the profit sharing plan and satisfied the statutory criteria of having the power of revocation under I.C. 32-17-13-1(a). It at first seems to be allowed to be used to pay claims against a decedent’s estate, but the statute has exclusions. Even when the requisite transferor control is present, the statute provides that certain categories of property are sheltered from recovery and distribution to probate claimants. This includes an individual retirement account. Samson’s plan was intended to provide tax-deferred retirement benefits, and this type of contract is encompassed by the clear exclusionary language in the relevant probate statute, Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

“Ultimately, the Ecker Estate asks that we provide restrictions upon the broad exclusionary language of Indiana Code Section 32-17-13-1(b). However, courts may not engraft new words onto a statute or add restrictions where none exist,” Bailey wrote. “The Profit Sharing Plan falls within the exclusionary language of 32-17-13-1(b) and is not recoverable by the personal representative of the Samson Estate for the payment of allowable probate claims. Although we are mindful of the tragic circumstances preceding this litigation, the law compels this result.

The case is Estate of Kelly Ecker, by its Personal Representative, Patricia Ann Leturgez v. Estate of George Scott Samson, 84A01-1602-ES-430.  


Recent Articles by Jennifer Nelson