Jeffrey S. Galvin

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. (Read more…)

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Why Contingency Fee Representation Is Hard to Obtain in Trust and Will Contests

We often receive inquiries about whether we will represent parties in California trust and will contests on a contingency basis.  In contingency representation, the lawyer does not collect a fee unless the client obtains a favorable settlement or court judgment.  Contingency fees usually are structured on a percentage basis, with the lawyer receiving perhaps 25-40 … Continue Reading

Successor Trustee Gets Privileged Documents Even if Trust Says Otherwise

The attorney-client privilege in California belongs to the office of trustee, not to the incumbent in that office, thus generally allowing successor trustees to obtain confidential communications that their predecessors had with counsel.  We blogged last year about an appellate opinion that reinforced this concept. Last month, in Morgan v. Superior Court (2018) 23 Cal.App.5th … Continue Reading

Resolving California Trust and Estate Disputes – A Mediator’s Perspective

Many California trust and estate disputes are resolved by mediation instead of a final adjudication in the Superior Court.  Mediation can offer a custom-crafted resolution to a case that avoids the stress, expense and unpredictability of a trial.  When parties choose to mediate, there is often a deal to be found even if the positions … Continue Reading

Mental Capacity Standards in California Civil Litigation

What mental capacity standards apply in California civil litigation?  Last month we presented on this subject at the Placer County Bar Association’s annual spring conference in Roseville.  I’ll offer highlights here. Short answer: it depends.  The mental capacity standard varies depending on the setting.  The policy rationale for the different standards is elusive, so as … Continue Reading

Stepmother vs. Stepchild, Now Playing in a California Probate Court Near You

Stepmothers are frequent characters in California trust and estate litigation, as they are in fairy tales and Disney movies.  With about half of all marriages ending in divorce, there are many stepmother/stepchild relationships.  Mostly they work out fine, but some go south. After blogging on sibling conflicts as a driver of trust and estate disputes, … Continue Reading

New Judge in Sacramento County Superior Court Probate Department

This month Judge John P. Winn replaces Judge Steven M. Gevercer as the Supervising Probate Judge in Department 129 of the Sacramento County Superior Court, as part of judicial reassignments that occur each January. Judge Winn will be handling a broad range of matters in Department 129, including trust disputes, probate administrations, conservatorships and guardianships.  … Continue Reading

Sacramento Court: Only a Health Care Agent Can Contract for Placement in an RCFE

Incapacity planning is a major component of an estate plan.  Quite often people name one person to serve as a health care agent and another person to serve as a financial agent.  What role does one agent have as opposed to the other in the context of contracting for medical services? While the Probate Code … Continue Reading

Doctors Who Disobey Health Care Agents in California May Be Liable for Elder Abuse

A recent California appellate case, Stewart v. Superior Court (2017) 16 Cal.App.5th 87, validates the primacy of medical powers of attorney and (as they are more currently known) advance health care directives.  Medical providers who disregard the instructions of duly-appointed health care agents by providing unauthorized treatment may be liable in California for elder abuse … Continue Reading

Anti-SLAPP Case Features Arm Wrestling Siblings and a Prep School

California’s anti-SLAPP statute has generated another published case for trust and estate lawyers to ponder.  Last week, in Urick v. Urick (2017) 15 Cal.App.5th 1182, the California Court of Appeal confirmed that anti-SLAPP motions can be used to attack petitions to enforce no contest clauses. The opinion reminds California trust and estate counsel to be … Continue Reading

Look! Up in the Sky! It’s Sibling Lawyer!

I’m a sibling lawyer.  My career started early, as a middle child, and now continues as a Sacramento-based trust and estate litigation attorney.  Most of my clients are grappling with sisters or brothers over the care and finances of aging or deceased parents.  In Family Feud parlance, my “survey says” that sibling versus sibling is … Continue Reading

California Professional Fiduciaries Help Elders and Resolve Conflicts

California trust and estate disputes may be avoided or resolved with the appointment of a private professional fiduciary to act in an oversight role with respect to an elder’s care and/or finances.  In a recent post, we suggested the use of professional fiduciaries or bank trust departments to resolve conflicts among family member co-trustees. Here … Continue Reading

Look for Mild Cognitive Impairment in California Trust and Estate Disputes

Mental incapacity and undue influence are the most common theories used to try to invalidate wills, trusts and beneficiary designations in California and elsewhere.  Occasionally, the subject in a trust and estate dispute has a thorough cognitive evaluation performed contemporaneously with his or her estate planning change.  But, more often than not, the medical record … Continue Reading

Co-Trustee Conflict Fuels California Trust Litigation

California trust litigation often stems from disagreements and hostility among family member co-trustees.  Rather than picking one of their kids to serve as sole successor trustee when they die or become incapacitated, Mom and Dad often appoint two or more of their children to act together as successor co-trustees. Having more than one child serve … Continue Reading

Courts Should Read Elder Abuse Act Broadly to Stop Wrongdoers

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act is elastic enough to encompass claims arising from sharp insurance sales practices, even when elders do not pay anything directly to the agents.  So concluded the First District Court of Appeal earlier this month in Mahan v. Charles W. Chan Insurance Agency, Inc. (2017) 12 Cal.App.5th … Continue Reading

Constructive Trusts Can Catch Wayward Trust Assets

Trustees in California trust disputes should not overlook the power of the constructive trust remedy as a way to recover errant trust assets.  That’s a takeaway from Higgins v. Higgins (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 648, an opinion in a trust litigation case published last week by the California Court of Appeal. A Los Angeles Superior Court trial … Continue Reading

California Courts Must Examine Outgoing Trustee’s Assertion of Attorney-Client Privilege

One challenge that California trustees face is the prospect that confidential attorney-client communications will pass to successor trustees if they resign or are removed from office.  The attorney-client privilege belongs to the client, but the client is the office of the trustee, not the incumbent who holds that office.  Hence, the successor trustee generally gets … Continue Reading

Rapid Increase in Sacramento Conservatorship Cases

New conservatorship cases in Sacramento County Superior Court have risen sharply over the past three years.  Judge Steven M. Gevercer, who presides in Department 129 (the Probate Division), presented startling numbers at a March 21, 2017 lunch of the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Probate and Estate Planning Section.  The panelists, including the judge and veteran … Continue Reading

Pro Bono Estate Planning Clinic Starts in Sacramento

In a Prince-themed blog last spring, we used the singer’s untimely death to make the point that “you don’t have to be rich” to need an estate plan.  While the litigation surrounding Prince’s $100-300 million estate grinds on, as well covered in the Star Tribune, here in Sacramento there’s a new pro bono Estate Planning … Continue Reading

New Judges in Placer County and Yolo County Probate Departments

Most California trust and estate litigation occurs in the probate department of the Superior Court, where the assigned judge manages and ultimately decides disputes.  Generally, there is no right to a jury trial so the outcome in contested cases rests with the judge, often supported by court staff who conduct file review and legal research. … Continue Reading

California Wage and Hour Lawsuits Spreading to Mom’s Living Room

In a recent post, we discussed the hazards, from a tax reporting perspective, of erroneously treating California caregivers as independent contractors as opposed to employees.  If a caregiver is an employee (as is often the case), her employer also must comply with the various wage and hour rules that apply to the employment relationship. Many … Continue Reading

Watch Out for Tax Issues When Paying California Caregivers

Hired caregivers (also known as home care aides) permit many California seniors to remain in their homes as they age and need assistance with activities of daily living.  Yet from my window looking out at Sacramento, I can see massive liability associated with the classification and payment of such workers.  Consider that baby boomers are … Continue Reading

Sacramento Appellate Court Rejects Personal Liability for Legal Fees in Trust Disputes

Since California trustees generally can use trust funds to pay lawyers to handle disputes, litigation can drain away the funds available for distribution to beneficiaries.  Hence, an overaggressive beneficiary can pursue litigation that penalizes all beneficiaries, even those who have no responsibility for the fight. Last week the California Third District Court of Appeal, based … Continue Reading
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