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Estate of Ecker v. Estate of Samson

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 25, 2016

Estate of Kelly Ecker, by its Personal Representative, Patricia Ann Leturgez, Appellant,
v.
Estate of George Scott Samson, Appellee

         Appeal from the Vigo Superior Court The Honorable Lakshmi Reddy, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 84D02-1411-ES-8302

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Tricia Rose Tanoos Modesitt Law Firm, P.C. Terre Haute, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Kendra G. Gjerdingen Kathryn M. Cimera Mallor Grodner LLP Bloomington, Indiana

          Bailey, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [1] The Estate of Kelly Ecker, by its Personal Representative, Patricia Ann Leturgez ("the Ecker Estate"), appeals a summary judgment order denying the Ecker Estate's motion for summary judgment against the Estate of George Scott Samson ("the Samson Estate") and granting the summary judgment motion of Intervenors Jennifer Samson, Maria Samson, and Katherine Samson ("the Samson Daughters"). The Ecker Estate presents the sole issue of whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in determining that the George S. Samson M.D. Profit Sharing Plan and Trust ("the Profit Sharing Plan") was, pursuant to Indiana Code Section 32-17-13-1(b), property specifically excluded from the definition of a "nonprobate transfer" recoverable to pay estate claims. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [2] On October 5, 2014, George Samson ("George") shot and killed his wife, Kelly Ecker, and then killed himself. In November of 2014, the Samson Estate was opened. Old National Wealth Management was appointed the Personal Representative of the then-unsupervised estate. At the request of the Ecker Estate, the Samson Estate was converted to supervised administration.

         [3] The Ecker Estate filed a claim against the Samson Estate in the amount of $5, 000, 000.00. Kathy Sturgeon, Guardian of Kelly Ecker's minor child, L.O.E., filed a $2, 000, 000.00 claim. Samson's ex-wife filed a claim in the amount of $75, 655.18 and each of the Samson Daughters filed a claim alleging entitlement to a one-third share of the probate assets and any non-probate assets recoverable by the Samson Estate.

         [4] On March 11, 2015, the Ecker Estate filed a wrongful death action, naming the Samson Estate as a defendant.[1] On March 27, 2015, the Samson Estate filed an Inventory valuing estate assets at $289, 117.02. On April 13, 2015, Old National Wealth Management filed a petition for a court order determining the distribution of the Profit Sharing Plan, an individual retirement account, and a Union Hospital 403(b) Retirement Plan.

         [5] After mediation, the parties agreed to payment of the claim of Samson's ex- wife. The Ecker Estate and the Samson Daughters filed cross-motions for summary judgment. A hearing was conducted on January 5, 2016. The parties stipulated that the Union Hospital and individual retirement accounts were non-probate assets not recoverable by the personal representative for the payment of the Samson Estate creditors. One asset remained in dispute, specifically, the Profit Sharing Plan valued at approximately $567, 065.00.

         [6] On January 28, 2016, the trial court entered an order on the cross-motions for summary judgment, concluding that the Profit Sharing Plan was not a recoverable asset. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         Standard of Review

         [7] A trial court's grant of summary judgment on appeal to this Court is "clothed with a presumption of validity, " and an appellant has the burden of demonstrating that the grant of summary judgment was erroneous. Williams v. Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 762 (Ind. 2009). Our standard of review is well established:

When reviewing a grant of summary judgment, our standard of review is the same as that of the trial court. Considering only those facts that the parties designated to the trial court, we must determine whether there is a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and whether "the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." In answering these questions, the reviewing court construes all factual inferences in the non-moving party's favor and resolves all doubts as to the existence of a material issue against the moving party. The moving party bears the burden of making a prima facie showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law; and once the movant satisfies the burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to designate and produce evidence of facts showing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Dreaded, Inc. v. St. Paul Guardian Ins. Co., 904 N.E.2d 1267, 1269-70 (Ind. 2009) (internal citations omitted). Our standard of review is not altered by the fact that the parties made cross-motions for summary judgment. Indiana Farmers Mut. Ins. Grp. v. Blaskie, 727 N.E.2d 13, 15 (Ind.Ct.App. 2000). Instead, we consider each motion separately to ...


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