Chris Watts took out a $450,000 insurance policy on his wife Shanann Watts and daughters Bella, 4, and Celeste, 3, prior to their deaths. That policy paid out in full in the wake of their murders, with just one problem — both Shanann‘s parents and Chris‘ parents said that the money belonged to them.
This all came to light after Cindy and Ronnie Watts were named in a civil complaint this summer. OK! has obtained a copy of that court document, which was filed by Zurich America Insurance Company.
The complaint explained:
- 18. Under the Policy, an employee of Anadarko was eligible to purchase an amount of Principal Sum for the Accidental Death Benefit. CW elected to purchase the Principal Sum of $500,000.
- 19. CW was the “Insured” as defined in the Policy. SW, CCW and BW were all “Covered Persons” and “Covered Dependents” as defined in the Policy.
- 20. By endorsement, the Policy specified that the Principal Sum for a Covered Dependent would be a set percentage of the Insured’s Principal Sum.
- 21. The Principal Sum for SW as the spouse of CW was 60% of CW’s Principal Sum, or $300,000.
- 22. The Principal Sum for CCW and BW as Dependent Children of CW was 15% of CW’s Principal Sum, or $75,000 each.
The filing went on to explain that Shanann and the girls met all the necessary criteria to receive a full payout but that Chris would not be able to receive the money. “CW, as a ‘killer,’ may not acquire the benefits owed for the deaths of SW, CCW and BW under the Policy under the Statute,” states the filing. This is known as the Slayer Statute.
This could have been a problem, but Chris appeared to have addressed this prior to the policy paying out. His parents had other plans, though, according to the complaint:
- 40. CW has waived any interest in any insurance benefits and directed that all such be paid to SW’s estate. A copy of the Order dated June 25, 2019, in the probate case for the Estate of SW, Case No. 2018 PR 190, is attached hereto as Exhibit C. The Statute does not address whether following such a direction by a killer would constitute an improper wrongful acquisition of an interest by that killer.
- 41. As CW has no living descendants and no spouse, any disclaimed share of an intestate estate would go to his surviving parents, Ronnie and Cindy Watts, under Colo. Rev. Stat. § 15-11-103.
- 42. The estate of SW, through Franklin Rzucek, has made a claim for the benefits owed for the deaths of SW ($300,000), CCW ($75,000) and BW ($75,000).
- 43. The Watts have made a claim for these same benefits as the parents of CW.
- 44. The Rzuceks have made a claim for these same benefits as the parents of SW
This resulted in the two parties going to court to fight for the money. And in the end, the insurance company washed its hands of the entire matter by just depositing the funds into an account that was then paid out to the lawyers in the case.
The Motion to Dismiss states:
- 1. On August 18, 2020, the Court issued its Order Granting Plaintiff’s Unopposed Motion to Interplead Funds into the Court’s Registry, for Dismissal with Prejudice and for Permanent Injunction directing Plaintiff to pay the Policy proceeds of four hundred fifty thousand dollars ($450,000.00) into the registry of the Court.
- 3. Plaintiff paid the Policy proceeds into the registry of the Court on August 25, 2020.
- 4. Defendants Franklin Rzucek as personal representative of the Estate of Shannan Watts, Ronnie Watts, Cindy Watts, Franklin Rzucek, and Sandra Rzucek (collectively “Defendants”) have reached a settlement in this matter.
- 5. Defendants request that the Court order that the four hundred fifty thousand dollars ($450,000.00) paid by Plaintiff into the registry of the Court be disbursed in full to the Grant and Hoffman, P.C.COLTAF Account.
- 6. Grant and Hoffman, P.C. shall then disburse the funds pursuant to the settlement between the Defendants.
It was not revealed how the money was split between the two families and lawyers for both did not return requests for comment.
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