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Senator Dianne Feinstein seeks more control over her late husband’s trust to pay medical bills

Lawyers for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the senior member of Congress battling serious health issues, allege in a lawsuit that she is saddled with payments for “significant” medical bills by a trust set up for her by her wealthy late husband.

Fund trustees said they were “perplexed” by the filing and have never denied any payouts for 90-year-old Feinstein, who was absent from the Senate for two and a half months this year because she battled shingles and other complications, including a brief bout of encephalitis.

In Monday’s petition in San Francisco Superior Court, attorneys for the Democratic senator and her daughter, Katherine Feinstein, wrote that the longtime legislator had accrued “significant” medical expenses and was seeking reimbursement from the spousal trust, established in 1996 by her husband, investor Richard Blum, who died last year. The senator is the “sole beneficiary of the income” of the trust, which has assets that include a life insurance policy and its proceeds, the filing said.

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Despite Blum’s intention to provide for his wife’s welfare after his death, “the alleged trustees have refused to make distributions to reimburse Senator Feinstein’s medical expenses,” they wrote.

In addition, they said “alleged trustees” Mark R. Klein and Marc Scholvinck had not been appointed in accordance with the terms of the trust. The senator wants to appoint her daughter to manage the fund, which they’ve asked the court to confirm. Katherine Feinstein is Blum’s stepdaughter.

In response, Steven P. Braccini, an attorney for Klein and Scholvinck, said in a statement, “My clients are perplexed by this filing. Richard Blum’s trust has never denied any disbursement to Senator Feinstein, much less for medical expenses.”

“While my clients are very concerned, we all remain hopeful that this is just a misunderstanding that can be resolved quickly,” he said.

The filing identifies Katherine Feinstein, a member of the San Francisco Fire Commission and former judge, as the senator’s “de facto attorney,” someone authorized to act on behalf of another person.

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But Braccini said, “We have not been given any evidence that Katherine Feinstein has power of attorney for her mother; nor has Katherine made it clear, either in this filing or directly to my clients, why a sitting U.S. senator would require someone to have power of attorney over her.”

The senator’s spokesman, Adam Russell, said in an email that Feinstein and her office would not comment on what he called “a private legal matter.”

Feinstein is covered by Medicare and the DC Health Link, which offers health plans for members of Congress.

Feinstein, whose pioneering political career shattered gender barriers from San Francisco City Hall to the corridors of Capitol Hill, announced in February that she would not be seeking re-election.

After her sick leave, Feinstein returned to the Capitol in May looking noticeably thinner and more frail, about 10 weeks after being diagnosed and briefly hospitalized for shingles in San Francisco. One side of her face was drooping, apparently from Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which can occur when the shingles virus reaches a facial nerve near the ears. It can also cause hearing loss.

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Other side effects of the virus include vision and balance problems. She uses a wheelchair to get to her office and committee meetings.

For years, Feinstein has faced questions about her memory and cognitive abilities — though she’s defended her effectiveness — and sometimes appeared confused during brief discussions with reporters.

Despite calls from some in her own party to step down, Feinstein has given no indication she is considering stepping down.

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