117: Estate Planning Lessons: Senator Dianne Feinstein

You may have heard that Senator Dianne Feinstein passed away on September 29, 2023, and there is pending litigation between the Senator and her deceased husband, Richard Blum, as well as some new litigation regarding her estate.

Two petitions have been filed by the Senator’s daughter, Katherine Feinstein. The first petition concerns the joint revocable trust between Senator Feinstein and Richard Blum. Katherine is alleging that the joint trust held between Dianne and Richard was not split, and she is also requesting that the court permit the trustees to sell one of the four properties in trust, the Stinson Beach property. The problem is that Katherine filed using a power of attorney that is no longer valid now that Senator Feinstein has passed away. Her only option is to file a probate so the court can grant her an order naming her the executor for Senator Feinstein’s estate, and only then can the lawsuit continue.

In the other lawsuit, Katherine is suing her co-trustee for inaction. This lawsuit will proceed because she is still the co-trustee, providing continuity for before and after death.

As we also point out, the big lesson learned here is a lack of communication within the family. Being surprised is a big part of why people react badly, so having these critical conversations with your children, other family members, etc., is vital to make your intentions clear while also hearing what your loved ones have to say.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

0:00 Introduction

1:16 Before we dive into all the details of Dianne’s situation, let’s discuss some of the backstory and how Dianne’s husband, Richard Blum, fits into the story.

3:06 There is some litigation going on with the trusts. Senator Feinstein’s daughter claims that Richard’s trust wasn’t split and wants to sell the Stinson Beach property.

5:24 The other point of this litigation is that Katherine Feinstein is suing her co-trustee, a fiduciary.

6:14 The second petition, also filed by Katherine Feinstein on behalf of Dianne as a beneficiary of Richard’s separate property trust because she has not received the $1.5 million in income and principal to which Senator Feinstein is entitled.

8:10 Now that Senator Feinstein has died, the power of attorney that Katherine Feinstein is using for the second petition is no longer valid. So, she will now have to file a petition for probate to be named executor.

11:37 Now that we know what’s happening, let’s highlight the lessons learned. One crucial element we think happened is that there was NO communication among family members.

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