It is being reported that Josh Powell’s siblings have claimed life insurance proceeds – $1 million on Josh’s life, $500,000 on his kids’ lives, and $1 million on Susan’s life. Here’s a link to the story on Yahoo.
This is not quite accurate. The insurance company, New York Life, alleges that the Powell siblings inquired about how to make a claim, but it is not alleged that they actually claimed any proceeds, at least not yet. It is also alleged – and here is the crux of the issue – that the siblings’ claims, if any, compete with Susan Powell’s heirs’ claims and the issues are sufficiently complex that New York Life prefers handing the money to the court, and letting it decide, rather than risk making a wrong decision and ending up liable to somebody for deciding wrong.
The question of who will receive the policy proceeds is complicated. Washington State is a community property state, and thus Susan’s estate may have a community property interest in the policy on Josh’s life. (Utah law may also apply.) Further complicating things is that technically, Susan Powell remains a missing person; it has not been adjudged that she is deceased. She is named in the lawsuit as, Susan Powell an absentee person; or her successors in trust, as Trustee of the Joshua S. Powell and Susan M. Powell Revocable Trust.
Josh’s estate may be disinherited from receiving anything from Susan’s death under Washington’s “Slayer Statute,” RCW 11.84.020. But here, it is not Josh who is claiming the proceeds, but his siblings.
In any event, New York Life is faced with difficult questions about who is entitled to the proceeds. So it is suing both Susan’s heirs and Josh’s heirs for a determination of who gets the funds. Here’s the complaint. So far, only Susan’s heirs – her parents – have appeared in the lawsuit. They are represented by attorney Anne Bremner of the Stafford Frey Cooper firm.
We hope this sad story can be resolved quickly.