Josh Powell's family members say they should get insurance payout

Josh Powell’s heirs, who for more than four years argued his innocence in the disappearance of his wife, Susan, now suggest in a court filing they would be willing to try to prove she is dead if it helps them collect money from her life insurance policy.

While the filing doesn’t specify that the finger would be pointed at Josh Powell, lawyers for Susan Powell’s parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup, say that would be the only option.

“What else could they do?” Seattle attorney Anne Bremner asked. “If you’re going to prove it by clear and convincing evidence, which is the requirement, what do they have?”

Joshua Lee, a Utah attorney representing the Powells, said the filing does not necessarily mean what Bremner thinks and is an example of a lawyer trying to maintain options.

“I would imagine it has to do with simply the date (of Susan Powell’s death) and not the cause,” Lee said.

The Powells’ court filing was made by Tacoma attorney Tom J. West. At issue is $3.5 million in life insurance proceeds for Josh and Susan Powell and their two sons, Charlie, 7; and Braden, 5. A federal court case in Washington state and a state court case in Utah are aimed at determining who is eligible to collect.

In a recent filing in the federal case, the Powells’ lawyer wrote that, depending on the outcome of the Utah case, the Powells “may seek to bring an action under the Utah Presumption of Death Statute, based upon available evidence, to establish a date of death earlier than December 6, 2014.”

Utah law says someone can be declared deceased five years after they disappear. Susan Powell was last seen Dec. 6, 2009, at her West Valley City, Utah, home. She was 28.

Josh Powell was considered a person of interest in her disappearance. He killed himself and his sons in a house fire at their Graham-area home Feb. 5, 2012.

Josh Powell’s mother, Terrica, sister Alina and brother John have argued they, as his heirs, should be able to collect the life insurance money on the entire family.

New York Life Insurance Co. wants a federal judge in Washington state to sort out whether the changes to the beneficiaries Josh Powell, 36, made to those policies after Susan Powell disappeared – from his wife to his family members – are valid and still payable given the homicide-suicide that resulted in his death and that of his children.

It also wants the court to decide what should happen with a policy in Susan Powell’s name.

Meanwhile, Chuck Cox, in 2013, was made conservator of Susan Powell’s estate in Utah. It’s possible any life insurance proceeds would go to that estate.

The Powells are challenging Chuck Cox’s appointment as conservator. To remove Cox, Bremner said, they could try to prove Susan Powell died before Josh Powell’s death. The Powells then could contend they are the proper conservators and seek to inherit and manage Susan Powell’s estate.