Jeffrey S. Galvin

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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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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

Is “Bad Faith” Needed for Double Damages Under Probate Code Section 859?

A recent decision from the California Court of Appeal shows a continued split of authority as to the meaning of California Probate Code section 859, which allows doubles damages for the wrongful taking of property under specified circumstances. In Keading v. Keading (2021) 60 Cal.App.5th 1115, the Court of Appeal ruled that a trial court … Continue Reading

Court May Compel Mediation of California Trust Disputes

(Editor’s Note: This post has been updated following the Court of Appeal’s opinion after rehearing on April 5, 2021, and the Supreme Court’s subsequent denial of review or depublication.) Trust and estate litigators, and mediators, are buzzing over a recent decision from the California Court of Appeal that validates mandatory mediation of trust disputes. In … Continue Reading

Take a Fire Prevention Approach to Your Estate Plan

As we enter the New Year, it’s a good time to revisit your estate plan.  The big question is whether your will, trust, power of attorney, and advance health care directive accomplish your personal objectives.  Guidance from an estate planner will help you review your plan in light of tax and other changes in the … Continue Reading

What a Catch! California Courts Can Adjudicate Claims Against Nonresident Trustees

What court should hear a dispute over a California trust?  I briefed this question last month when a judge questioned if a case should instead be adjudicated in neighboring states.  Such jurisdiction issues come up occasionally given the mobility of family members with interests in trusts. A recent appellate case, Van Buskirk v. Van Buskirk … Continue Reading

When Do California Trust and Estate Cases Have Preference in Trial Setting or Appeal?

Getting a civil or probate case to trial in California can take a long time.  The pandemic has backed up many courts given that criminal and civil trials starting in March 2020 were postponed.  While most California trust and estate disputes do not require juries, a multi-day court trial remains a challenge in a pandemic … Continue Reading

Trust on Trial Celebrates a Fifth Anniversary

We started Trust on Trial with a post on undue influence in November 2015 and now mark the blog’s fifth anniversary.  We thank readers of our “five cents” for their feedback, reflect on where we’ve been, and look towards the future. Focused on California trust and estate litigation, and dispute avoidance, we have published 127 … Continue Reading

Who Gets the Tahoe House and Other California Real Estate Inheritance Disputes

Many California trust and estate disputes involve the allocation of real estate amongst several beneficiaries.  Mom and Dad, may they rest in peace, owned an upscale home in the Fab 40s neighborhood of East Sacramento, a sweet Tahoe vacation home, and a few rental duplexes, but did not specify how these assets were to be … Continue Reading

SB 1146 Facilitates Remote Depositions and Electronic Service, But Leaves Challenges in California Trust and Estate Litigation

As we enter the eighth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, California courts and litigants continue to grapple with how to move civil cases forward. Senate Bill 1146, approved by Governor Newsom on September 18, 2020, and effective immediately, facilitates the taking of depositions by allowing court reporters to attend remotely and enables electronic service of … Continue Reading

Daughter Liable for Interfering with Stepmother’s Inheritance

Intentional interference with expected inheritance (IIEI) was recognized as a legal claim in California about eight years ago in Beckwith v. Dahl (2012) 205 Cal.App.4th 1039.  Last week, the Court of Appeal issued the first published opinion in California that affirms a judgment in favor of a plaintiff on an IIEI claim, thus providing guidance … Continue Reading

Temporary Conservators May Lack Authority to Sign Contracts for Conservatees

Can a temporary conservator of a person effectively sign paperwork that admits the conservatee to a California senior living facility subject to an arbitration agreement?  Only if the temporary conservator has special authorization to do so. Holley v. Silverado Senior Living Management, Inc. (2020) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, decided in August, is a cautionary tale for … Continue Reading

Clear and Convincing Evidence Standard Continues to Apply in California Appeals

Last week the California Supreme Court used a conservatorship case to clarify how appellate courts should review the sufficiency of evidence when the trial court applied the clear and convincing evidence standard. In Conservatorship of O.B. (2020) 9 Cal.5th 989, the Supreme Court held that “when reviewing a finding that a fact has been proved … Continue Reading

Home Sweet Home – California Legislature Aims to Safeguard Conservatee Residences

Effective January, 1, 2020, the Legislature changed California conservatorship law with respect to the personal residences of conservatees.  Senate Bill 303 attempts to protect conservatees by making it harder to relocate them from and sell their residences.  Proponents argued that existing law made it too easy for conservators to liquidate the homes of conservatees.  The … Continue Reading
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