Trista Reynolds, mother of missing toddler Ayla Reynolds, is asking that her daughter be declared legally dead more than five years after her disappearance.

A probate judge signed an initial order declaring the child dead on Tuesday in order to keep the process moving, with the official probate court hearing set for September 21st. According to the Portland Press Herald, family members have taken the step to preserve the rights of Ayla's estate in order to bring a lawsuit.

Ayla was 20 months old when she disappeared from her grandmother's house, where her father was living, in December of 2011. Justin DiPietro told police that he tucked Ayla into bed the night before she was reported missing and that she was gone the next morning. Also in the house at the time were DiPietro's girlfriend, Courtney Roberts, and his sister, Elisha DiPietro. All occupants have told police they have no idea what happened to the toddler.

Ayla's mother has maintained that something happened to her daughter and that the baby's father and family are withholding information. As the investigation proceeded, a significant amount of Ayla's blood was found in the basement of the house, leading police to say they believed she was deceased.

This week's hearing was just a preliminary move, and the PPH reports no death certificate has yet been issued. That's expected to happen in September.