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Life insurance payouts and slayer statutes add to family’s burden p6

Sat Jun 14th, 2014 on     Insurance Claims,    

We are finishing up our discussion of the life insurance issues involved with the Susan Powell case. While none of this happened in Florida, the story touches on some interesting issues that could arise here as well.

Susan disappeared in December 2009. Josh, her husband and a suspect in the case, subsequently killed himself and their two young children. His family has endured untold heartache since then, but they have one advantage over Susan’s parents, Charles and Judy Cox.

The Powells know what happened to their son.

The court had to untangle Josh’s life insurance policies. First, there was the question of whether the state’s slayer statute would apply. It does not. The statute does not extend to members of the murderer’s family, the court said, adding too that Josh had never even been charged in Susan’s disappearance.

So, the judge divided one policy’s payout evenly between the families. A second policy named Susan as the primary beneficiary. The court decision hinged on Susan’s status.

Because the state has not officially recognized Susan’s death, she is legally alive. Josh, then, predeceased her, so the terms of his policy remain as he left them. Until December, of course, her father, as conservator, is standing in for Susan, so the $500,000 benefit will go to him.

Susan’s own policy lists Josh as primary beneficiary and a trust established by the couple as the secondary beneficiary. Because Josh died before Susan was declared legally dead, the entire $1 million payout will go to the trust.

There is no such thing as clear-cut in this case, though. The Powell family and the Coxes are still arguing over the proceeds of the trust. The Powell family alleges that Josh’s mother, sister and brother were improperly removed from the list of trust beneficiaries.

That dispute, however, is in the hands of another judge.

Source: Deseret News, “Judge orders Josh Powell life insurance money be split 50-50,” Pat Reavy, May 19, 2014

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