Will Josh Powell's family argue he killed wife so they can collect life insurance?

Published: Friday, April 11 2014 5:00 p.m. MDT

A family photo of the Powell family.

Family photo

SALT LAKE CITY — Are Josh Powell's mother and sister prepared to admit that he killed his wife, missing Utah mother Susan Cox Powell, in order to collect his life insurance policy?

The answer is yes, according to a newly filed brief in 3rd District Court by the Salt Lake attorney for Chuck Cox, Donald Reay, who is working with Cox's Washington state attorney, Anne Bremner. Cox is Susan Powell's father.

"The Powells are prepared to try and prove that Joshua Powell killed Susan in order to further pursue their alleged entitlement to certain insurance proceeds. Such behavior is shocking. It demonstrates the Powells care not about Susan’s best interest, but rather will take whatever position maximizes their opportunity to benefit monetarily from Joshua Powell’s crimes," the court brief states.

But an attorney for Alina Powell and Terrica Powell — Josh Powell's sister and mother — said that's not true.

"That's not what they said," Joshua L. Lee told the Deseret News. "We're disappointed to see this type of discourse in a judicial proceeding."

At issue is the ongoing and oftentimes complicated battle over who should collect on the life insurance policies of Josh Powell and the children of Josh and Susan Powell, which, with interest, are worth an estimated $2.5 million today, according to court records.

If a legal determination is made that Susan Powell died before her husband, then he or his family would become the beneficiary of her estate. If Josh Powell died first, then his wife's family would benefit.

Another area of contention is whether Cox can be named conservator of his daughter's estate.

On June 28, 2007, Josh Powell took out a New York Life insurance policy on his wife that was worth an estimated $1 million and $250,000 each for his two young sons, Charlie and Braden.

On Feb. 4, 2009, Josh and Susan Powell executed the Powell Trust. Technically, Susan Powell became the sole trustee after her husband's death in 2012.

Susan Powell went missing in December 2009. To this day, she is legally considered a missing person. Police, however, believe Josh Powell killed her, but they never arrested or charged him and her body has never been found.

On Dec. 3, 2011, Josh Powell changed the beneficiary designation on the primary insurance portion of his policy to make his brother, Michael, the primary beneficiary and the person getting the lion's share of the money, followed by his sister, Alina, and other brother, John. The secondary beneficiary became his father, Steven Powell.

But after Josh Powell murdered his two young sons and then killed himself and set fire to his house in Washington just two months later, questions were raised about whether Josh Powell's family could receive the money.

Michael Powell committed suicide in 2012.

Chuck Cox has filed for conservatorship in the estate of his daughter. Alina and Terrica Powell have filed motions trying to remove Cox as conservator. Court documents have been filed in both federal and district court in Washington and Utah in the ongoing legal battle.

In court papers filed Thursday in Salt Lake City, one of the key issues surrounding conservatorship and insurance payouts is deciding when Susan Powell will legally be declared dead.

Susan Powell's date of death will be listed in court documents as Dec. 6, 2014. Even though that date hasn't happened yet, under Utah law she can be declared dead five years after disappearing, unless there is "clear and convincing" evidence to prove otherwise. Chuck Cox has agreed to declare Dec. 6, 2014, as the date of death of his daughter, according to court papers filed in Washington.

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