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Utah judge rules against Josh Powell's family in estate case

Published September 3, 2014 8:08 pm

Family trust • Assets include insurance money and house.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A 3rd District Court judge on Wednesday prevented the family of Josh Powell from collecting any more money from his estate, saying they waited too long to challenge changes to his legal trust.

The ruling prevents the Powells from collecting the assets in Josh and Susan Powell's trust when Susan is declared dead, probably in December.

That trust, and a related conservatorship, will include $2.3 million in life insurance awards, which have been accumulating interest, and the couple's house in West Valley City.

Terrica and Alina Powell — Josh's mother and sister, respectively — are likely to appeal. Their Salt Lake City attorney, Joshua Lee, declined to comment Wednesday.

While Judge L.A. Dever ruled in favor of Chuck and Judy Cox, Susan Powell's parents, he found problems with how they came to manage their daughter's estate.

Dever said Chuck Cox should not have been put in charge of the estate. The terms of Josh and Susan Powell's legal trust said a trustee could be appointed only if they were dead or incapacitated.

While Josh Powell is dead, Susan Powell has never been found, and Chuck Cox did not provide documentation from two doctors saying his daughter was incapacitated, as required by the terms of the trust. Once he gained stewardship of the trust, Dever said, Chuck Cox did not have authority to remove the Powell family as beneficiaries.

Yet, 3rd District Judge Katherine Bernards-Goodman granted Chuck Cox conservatorship over the trust on Jan. 30, 2013. Utah law provided the Powell family 30 days to challenge his appointment.

The Powells did not file any such challenge until Sept. 13.

Despite errors he said were made by the Coxes, Dever let stand their booting of the Powells.

Anne Bremner, the Coxes' attorney in Seattle, focused Wednesday on how Dever ultimately sided with her clients.

"It's a good day for them," Bremner said. "It's a good day for Susan. It's a good day for justice."

Susan Powell, 28, was last seen Dec. 6, 2009, at her West Valley City home. Her husband Josh was the only person of interest when he killed their two sons and then himself Feb. 5, 2012, at a home in Graham, Wash.

Utah law allows for a person to be declared dead five years after anyone last saw signs of him or her.

A federal judge in Tacoma, Wash., in May decided to split the insurance proceeds from between the two families, including a policy covering Susan Powell.

Terrica and Alina Powell, as well as the estate of Michael Powell received $528,931. Michael Powell committed suicide in 2013.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle —

How the insurance money is to be split

Josh Powell's New York Life policy, valued at $1,057,863.01 plus interest:

Susan Powell conservatorship: 50 percent

Michael Powell's estate*: 46.5 percent

Alina Powell: 2 percent

John Powell: 1.5 percent

New York Life rider covering Charlie and Braden Powell, valued at $528,931.50 plus interest

Conservatorship: 50 percent

Michael Powell estate*: 50 percent

Susan Powell's New York Life policy, valued at $1 million plus interest

All the money will go to a trust holding Susan and Josh Powell's assets, currently controlled by the Cox family.

Josh Powell's Beneficial Life Policy, valued at $500,000 plus interest

All the money will go to the conservatorship.

*Michael Powell died in 2013.

Source: Ruling by federal Judge Ronald Leighton