Jeffrey S. Galvin

Photo of Jeffrey S. Galvin

Jeff Galvin is a partner at Downey Brand LLP. He represents clients in trust and estate litigation, and related civil disputes, in the Greater Sacramento area, across Northern California, and in Northern Nevada. Many of Jeff’s clients have no prior experience with litigation and he works to identify and pursue the results that matter most to them.

Jeff advises trustees, administrators and executors who find themselves in conflict with beneficiaries. He helps beneficiaries assert their rights in trust and probate estates. He often litigates cases involving claims of breach of fiduciary duty in which a beneficiary seeks to remove and/or surcharge a trustee, administrator or executor. He prosecutes and defends trust contests and will contests, which typically raise issues of mental capacity, undue influence and elder financial abuse. For example, he successfully defended a trust contest in a 25-day trial in Calaveras County and then defended the judgment on appeal. Jeff also has filed conservatorship actions to stop financial elder abuse.

Jeff is a graduate of UCLA School of Law. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association.

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Late Trust Contest May Trigger Enforcement of No Contest Clause

No contest clauses generally are not enforceable against beneficiaries of California trusts when there is “probable cause” to challenge the trust instrument. Yet the probable cause safe harbor may disappear if the contest is untimely.  That’s the upshot of Meiri v. Shamtoubi (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ____, a Court of Appeal opinion issued last week. An … Continue Reading

And the Rocket’s Red Glare – Trustee Removal Petitions May Be Costly to Those Who Launch Them

Trustee removal petitions, like Centennial Fountains, are one of the more common fireworks in California trust litigation.  We’ve explored how such petitions are litigated in prior post and a podcast. In Bruno v. Hopkins (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the California Court of Appeal broke new ground by finding that a beneficiary who in bad faith … Continue Reading

Employing Caregivers and Advising Those Who Do – A Podcast with Bob King

Families often pay straight hourly wages to in home caregivers.  But paying $18 an hour to a caregiver for a twelve hour shift may end up costing the family much more.  As noted in a prior post, California law classifies in home caregivers as employees and they must be paid in accord with wage and … Continue Reading

Who Protects the Interests of Children in Trust Disputes?

California trust disputes often involve the interests of parents and their minor children.  Sometimes those interests conflict.  When disputes are settled, who looks out for the interests of children under 18 years of age?  Who checks that no child is left behind? Probate judges, as explained in a prior post, may appoint a guardian ad … Continue Reading

Elder Abuse Restraining Orders May Prevent Estate Planning Changes

Can a California court stop others from changing an elder’s estate plan?  Yes, in extreme circumstances, suggests a case arising from conflict in a blended family over which side would benefit from an elder’s trust. In White v. Wear (2022) 76 Cal.App.5th 24, the Court of Appeal reviewed the issuance of an elder abuse restraining … Continue Reading

Are an Estate Planner’s Notes Protected by the Attorney Work Product Doctrine?

California law is surprisingly unclear as to whether the notes of an estate planning attorney are protected from discovery by the attorney work product doctrine.  This can become a big issue in a will or trust contest when the attorney’s files may contain pivotal evidence as to the client’s intent, mental capacity and/or vulnerability to … Continue Reading

Final Ethics Opinion Guides Lawyers on Clients with Diminished Capacity

We wrote last July about a draft California ethics opinion regarding clients who may have diminished mental capacity. After receiving public comment, the State Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct has now finalized Formal Opinion Number 2021-207, which is close in content to the earlier opinion.… Continue Reading

“Predatory Marriage” Podcast

Vulnerable elders too often fall victim to predators who marry them for financial gain. But how should we balance the fundamental right to marry and enjoy companionship with protecting elders from financial abuse? Attorney Ellen McKissock, a California thought leader on predatory marriage, spoke with me on Trust Me!, the podcast of the Trusts and Estates Section of … Continue Reading

Blast from the Past – Trusts Subject to Medi-Cal Reimbursement

We begin the year with a case, Riverside County Public Guardian v. Snukst (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, involving an elder with dementia who received Medi-Cal benefits. The case, a blast from the past, illustrates how the State of California, under the law in effect until several years ago, could recoup the cost of such benefits … Continue Reading

Another Broad Reading of the Elder Abuse Act Protects Seniors

We “ring” in 2022 with a recent case that again shows the long reach of statutory financial elder abuse claims in California trust and estate litigation. In Ring v. Harmon (2021) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the Court of Appeal considered an alleged loan scheme to drain equity out of a house held in a probate estate. … Continue Reading

Assembly Bill 1194 – How Will “Free Britney” Impact California Lawyers and Courts?

Assembly Bill 1194, approved by Governor Newsom on September 30, 2021, tightens oversight of California conservators, especially those licensed by the Professional Fiduciaries Bureau. The bill expands the duties of California courts with respect to conservatorships, though some reforms depend upon funding in future legislation.  With a projected budget surplus, and keen public interest in … Continue Reading

Should “Dutiful Children” and “Dutiful Spouses” Be Exempt from the Undue Influence Presumption?

California trust and estate disputes often feature claims by one sibling that another gained a larger share by unduly influencing a parent. When there are factors suggesting undue influence, who should bear the burden of proof? The disfavored sibling or the favored one? Florida courts have decided that dutiful children, and spouses, should not be … Continue Reading

Making Peace in Mediation – A Conversation with Daniel Spector

Daniel Spector has litigated trust and estate cases in Northern California since the early 1990s. He is now focusing his practice on mediating trust and estate disputes across California, working with Judicate West. Dan is a colleague on the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association, and I thank … Continue Reading

Fraud Claims May Reopen Court-Approved Accountings

Even a court order approving an accounting may not protect a California fiduciary if the accounting is inaccurate. That’s the upshot of Hudson v. Foster (2021) 68 Cal.App.5th 640, a recent California Court of Appeal decision involving a conservatorship. The conservatee in this case consented to the conservator’s account and four years passed before the … Continue Reading

Zach Young, Second Generation Fiduciary, Helps Families with Transitions

Zachary Young is a private professional fiduciary with CMY Fiduciary Services in Sacramento.  His mother, Carolyn M. Young, began work as a fiduciary in 1986.  Zach received his bachelor’s degree in business and communications at Sacramento State University.  Zach joined his mother and sister, Lindsay Bowman, in the fiduciary business.  In 2012, he received his … Continue Reading

California Court Reconciles Ownership Presumptions in Probate Disputes

If Dad bought a house solely in his name, can Stepmother claim a community property interest after Dad has died? Perhaps yes. The answer lies at tricky intersections of California probate law and family law. While family law governs spouses during their lifetimes and upon divorce, the death of one spouse complicates the picture.  It … Continue Reading

“California Trustee Removal Litigation and Mediation” Podcast

California trust disputes often involve allegations that trustees should be removed and suspended because they are acting improperly or have conflicts of interest. Attorney Denise Chambliss, author of an informative article on trustee removal, spoke with me on Trust Me!, the podcast of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association.  Joining us … Continue Reading

“Inheritance Forgery” Podcast – Theft from Tigers Averted

Fort Hayes State University in Kansas, home of the Tigers, almost lost a $20 million donation because of a forged codicil (amendment) to the will of Earl Field. Earl was a World War II pilot, successful businessperson, and booster of FHSU. He died in 2013 at the age of 98. The forgery was proven only … Continue Reading

Ethics Opinion Guides Lawyers on Counseling Clients with Diminished Capacity

What are the ethical obligations of a California lawyer for a client with diminished mental capacity?  The ethics committee of the State Bar of California answers this key question in draft Formal Opinion No. 13-0002, with public comment due by August 24, 2021. While all lawyers may represent clients who have questionable capacity, the situation … Continue Reading

Steps to Follow with a Difficult Co-Trustee

We’ve written about how co-trustee conflict fuels California trust litigation and the problem seems to be growing.  Trust administration grinds to a halt because a co-trustee (or two or three) is hostile, stubborn, self-serving and/or apathetic.  While trusts are supposed to provide a streamlined alternative to a court-supervised probate proceeding, the efficiency may be is … Continue Reading

Immortal Right — Income Beneficiary’s Entitlement to Accounting Continues After Death

Many California trusts confer a lifetime right to income on a person (often the surviving spouse) with the remainder passing to designated survivors upon the income beneficiary’s death.  When the income beneficiary dies, is it too late for the executor of the beneficiary’s estate to request an accounting for the purpose of evaluating whether the … Continue Reading

California Appellate Courts Doubly Divided Over Probate Code Section 859

We blogged recently about Keading v. Keading (2021) 60 Cal.App.5th 1115, which addresses whether a trial court can impose damages under California Probate Code section 859, without a finding of bad faith, if the court finds that a person has taken, concealed or disposed of property by committing elder or dependent adult financial abuse. There … Continue Reading

“Mental Health Disorder” Must Be Proven Along with Delusion

When are delusions enough to invalidate an estate plan?  The California Court of Appeal addressed that issue earlier this month in Eyford v. Nord (2021) 62 Cal.App.5th 112. The case involves a 90-year-old woman who favored a charity and disinherited the two grandchildren with whom she had been close.  The appellate court found that California … Continue Reading

When Can California Trustees Use Trust Funds to Hire Lawyers?

Many family member trustees are uncertain about whether and to what extent they can use trust assets to obtain legal representation.  For example, when two parents choose their daughter, upon their incapacity or death, to administer their trust as the successor trustee, the daughter may be unsure whether she can use trust money to hire … Continue Reading
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