Is Susan Cox Powell still alive? It’s the question at the heart of an estate feud

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Is missing West Valley City mom Susan Cox Powell still alive?

That question is at the heart of a legal feud over her estate and more than $2 million in life insurance policies. Lawyers for Josh Powell's mother and a sister are challenging decisions made by Susan Cox Powell's father, Chuck Cox, to the couple's estate.

After Susan's disappearance and Josh Powell's death, Chuck Cox was made a conservator over the estate. He made changes to the trust, effectively cutting out the Powell family.

But Utah law only allows for changes to be made "in the event of incapacity," 3rd District Court Judge L.A. Dever said, noting that no one has declared Susan legally dead.

Susan Cox Powell vanished from her West Valley City home in December 2009. She has never been found, and her husband, Josh Powell, was considered a suspect in her disappearance. He killed himself and the couple's children in an explosion in Washington state in 2012.

Powell family attorney Joshua Lee insisted that no one could make changes to the Trust until it was determined that Susan was incapacitated. He also accused Chuck Cox of a "serious conflict-of-interest" as a beneficiary of the estate.

"We all know Josh Powell did some awful things and Mr. Cox has suffered greatly for that," Lee told the judge, rattling off the many things Josh Powell was accused of.

But he urged the court to think of Josh Powell's mother, Terrica Powell, who also suffered.

"She lost two sons, and two grandsons and her daughter-in-law. It's been a horrible ordeal for her as well," he said.

Judge Dever noted that the Powells stood to gain if Susan Cox Powell were to be declared dead.

"If Susan Cox Powell is alive, your clients have nothing," he said.

The Cox family's attorney said Chuck Cox is doing what he has the authority to under the law as Susan's conservator.

"Susan is assumed to be alive," said Ted Buck. "The conservator intends to maintain her estate until either she comes back or is proven to not be alive."

Judge Dever took the issue under advisement, promising to issue a ruling in writing at a later date. He did rule that Cox did not have to post a bond to insure there is money in the estate, ruling that there was no evidence of mismanagement.

The issue of Susan's death -- or not -- may be decided in December. There is a provision of Utah law that allows for a missing person to be declared legally dead after five years. December will mark five years since Susan vanished.

Outside of court, Chuck Cox expressed hope.

"To me, she's alive until there's evidence otherwise," he told FOX 13. "And I want to take care of her assets."

11 comments

    • Big-boned Kid From South Park

      No. He’s speaking the truth, legally: You’re assumed to be alive until there is proof that you’re dead, or until a judge declares you dead. (And there have been more than a few cases of people declared legally dead who later turned up alive and well.)

      Ever heard of insurance fraud? That’s why the law is the way it is. The insurance company doesn’t have to pay anybody a single dime until there is a death certificate. Otherwise we’d all fake our own deaths. We’d be a society of very wealthy zombies, and bankrupt insurance companies.

      We all know she’s dead. The lawyers know she’s dead. But legally she is assumed to be alive, at this point.

  • Mellie

    Stupid what is wrong with you!!! Alive…You must be Stupid or Crazy!!! That is the craziest thing I have heard!!!

  • Big-boned Kid From South Park

    The insurance company can’t pay until there is a death certificate, and in the absence of a corpse that would require a judge to declare her legally dead. Until that happens, nobody is getting any money.

    Once it’s done, then the money goes to whomever Susan designated as the beneficiary. If that’s no longer possible, and the court has said it’s up to her father, then that’s your answer.

    If her perv father-in-law sees a single penny after the way he flagrantly victimized her then our system has gone insane.

    But at the end of the day it’ll be lawyers who soak up most of the money, regardless of which was the decisions go. They know it. The judge knows it. It’s all just a giant racket.

    • Kim

      (By the way, my comment below was posted immediately after yours and was not a response to you.)

      Susan is the beneficiary of the insurance policy on Josh and boys. That is the money they are really discussing right now. Those funds have been paid and were put in a trust. Chuck is over that trust and the Powell family believes he shouldn’t be. They are expecting a payday and that just makes me sick!!

  • Kim

    I think you might have missed the point. The point is that Josh Powell killed her and his family (at least his father and brother) knew it. Not one of them should profit from her death since they did nothing to bring justice.

    By saying she might still be alive then none of the Powell family can touch the money. When she is proven or just legally declared dead, her family will have protected the money from the Powell family and they won’t get anything.

    It is a smart move.

    My hope is that Chuck, his family and all of Susan’s friends will be able to put this behind them.

  • sue

    The powells all except jennifer and her family are a sick mess. The coxes have suffeed old steve didn’t even react when told of joshs and boys death now his ex terri and daughter who are as crazy as any of them want money plus micheal didn’t jjump to his death because he wasn’t involved in susans dissapearance. They need to be denied any blood money and old steven needs to go back to prision

  • Trish Ramirez

    I can’t believe anyone in the Powell family has the audacity to harass the Cox family in ANY way at this point, particularly about something as petty as money, after the way this all played out. Can you imagine if by some turn of events, some of Susan’s estate made its way back into their pockets? The travesty.

  • exxy23

    Whatever it takes to keep Susan’s estate out of the clutches of the Powells…that’s what needs to happen. Josh stole so much from the Coxes that I think his family should just give it up and go away. Even if he didn’t kill Susan (yeah, right), there is no question than he killed the little boys.

  • KcRystal

    Even the little boys admitted to the police that they could hear their mom screaming from the trunk on the night their dad woke them up to go camping. There’s no way that she is still alive, especially if he had it in him to kill his own sons.

  • 10cowwoman

    The actions of Mama Powell and daughter is beyond disgusting. The actions and attitudes shown by Josh and Steven are beyond unforgivable. It shows the Powell’s only care about themselves and the MONEY!!! What nerve! Susan was abused many different ways by Josh. Steven sexually abused Susan, yet the women think they have a “right” to it. They have the nerve ro even think Chuck is mismanaging the trust money? They cry “We’ve suffered too. One son ( the one ho killed himself) and we lost Josh and our gandsons. We deserve a share of the money. oh have we suffered.” Seriously? There were MANY red flags, where were you then? You didn’t defend Susan disappeared.
    Why ask about the money now?
    Pray the judge has a ‘come to Jesus’ letting them know how audicious they are and tells them they will never see a cent of the trust money and to leave the Cox’s alone for good.

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