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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Helping Families and Solving Problems – A Conversation with Trust Officer Alysia Corell from Exchange Bank

Bank trust departments, also referred to as corporate trustees, provide professional management to the administration of California trusts.  People may choose to name a bank to act as successor trustee when they can no longer manage their own assets, either because they don’t have family members they can count on to handle assets or because … Continue Reading

California Court May Award Attorney’s Fees to Financial Elder Abuse Plaintiff Who Does Not Prove Damages

A new case from the Court of Appeal once again illustrates the robust nature of claims under California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, also known as the Elder Abuse Act. In Arace v. Medico Investments, LLC (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 977, a San Bernardino County jury found the owner of a residential care … Continue Reading

New California Statutes Change Spousal Undue Influence Presumptions

California trust and estate disputes often involve allegations that a surviving spouse took advantage of a deceased spouse so as to get more of the latter’s assets.  Often the “spousal financial abuse” charges are leveled by the deceased spouse’s biological children against their step-parent, as discussed in a prior post.  Sometimes care custodians who are … Continue Reading

California Estate Planning Disrupted by COVID-19 Virus and “Social Distancing”

What a difference a few weeks make!  A month ago, the COVID-19 virus was a distant threat.  Over the last few weeks, California courts and law offices have closed, leaving families at home and uncertainty as to when “normal” will return. Colleagues share that COVID-19 has led to a flurry of calls from clients who … Continue Reading

Openness and Transparency Help Avoid Trust Disputes – An Interview with Tracy Potts

Tracy M. Potts has nearly three decades of experience in California with estate planning, administration and litigation.  A Texas native, she earned her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law.  Her leadership experience includes chairing the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California, Trusts and Estates Section, as well as the Sacramento … Continue Reading

Judge Culhane Shares Thoughts on Sacramento County Probate Department

Judge Kevin R. Culhane rotated into Sacramento County Superior Court’s probate department in January 2020.  He shared his initial impressions with members of the probate bar on February 18, 2020, at the monthly lunch of the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Probate and Estate Planning Law Section. Noting that probate filings are on the rise, he … Continue Reading

I’m Still Standing – California Supreme Court Allows Trust Amendment Contests in Probate Court

Last week the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Barefoot v. Jennings (2020) 8 Cal.5th 822, ruling that a trust beneficiary disinherited in an amendment may contest the amendment’s validity in the probate department of the Superior Court under California Probate Code section 17200. The Court of Appeal had narrowly construed section 17200 … Continue Reading

Marvin Claims Between Unmarried Partners Will Abound in Post-Marriage California – A Conversation with Jeffrey Makoff

On November 20, 2019, California attorney Jeffrey T. Makoff presented to the Sacramento Estate Planning Council on the topic: “Welcome to the Post-Marriage World: How to Plan for a Generation That Says ‘I Don’t.’” Jeff started with evidence that marriage rates have declined sharply from the Silent Generation (those born from the mid-1920s to the … Continue Reading

California Assisted Living Residents Are Vulnerable to Financial Elder Abuse

As our population ages, more of our seniors are moving into assisted living facilities.  The number of such facilities has nearly tripled over the past two decades, with construction of memory care units the fastest-growing segment of senior care.  Half of assisted living residents are age 85 and older, and over 40 percent have some … Continue Reading

Your Slice of the Pizza – Only Directly Inherited Asset Qualifies as Separate Property

(Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal granted rehearing on December 2, 2019 and later depublished the portion of its opinion discussed below such that it is no longer citable authority in California courts.) It is widely understood in California that inherited assets, unlike assets earned from labor, are the separate property of the receiving spouse.  … Continue Reading

Beware of Dormant Creditor Claims in California Probate Cases

California’s probate process aims to expeditiously identify and resolve the claims of creditors against decedents.  Creditors who are unsophisticated, or who simply do not learn of the decedent’s passing, may find themselves with an uncollectable claim against an otherwise solvent estate.  You snooze, you lose. On the other hand, once a creditor makes a claim … Continue Reading

California Legislature Cracks Down on Caregivers Who Marry Dependent Adults

Many California financial elder abuse cases we see involve caregivers. While the vast majority are honest, a caregiver who spends many hours alone with a vulnerable client has a unique opportunity to exploit the situation. A crafty and crooked caregiver may go so far as to marry his or her client as part of a … Continue Reading

California Trustee Must Be Careful in Seeking Release from Beneficiary

Can a California trustee require a beneficiary to sign a release in order to get a distribution from a trust?  A question like this appeared recently on the AVVO “Free Q&A” page and makes for a perfect blog topic. Trustees understandably want to wrap up trust administration without having to worry about being sued by … Continue Reading

Could “The Farewell” Approach to Hiding a Terminal Diagnosis Occur in California?

In “The Farewell,” now out in theaters, family members choose not to tell the matriarch (“Nai Nai”) of her terminal lung cancer diagnosis. They use the pretext of a wedding to get the family together in China so that they can spend time with Nai Nai one last time without actually saying goodbye. The well-meaning … Continue Reading

How Do I Evaluate and Dispute a California Trustee’s Fee?

This blog post views a trustee’s fee from the beneficiary’s perspective.  Under California law, a trustee generally can set his or her own fee and collect it without prior disclosure to the beneficiaries.  What can a beneficiary, who sees a hand reaching too greedily in the trust cookie jar, do in response? We discussed best practices for … Continue Reading

A Thin Blue Line: APS and the DA Have Few Resources to Combat Financial Elder Abuse

Seniors are vulnerable to financial elder abuse and are often victimized, but there’s a scarcity of government resources in Sacramento County and elsewhere in California to address the problem. On May 21, 2019, the Sacramento County Bar Association’s Probate and Estate Planning Law Section presented a program entitled “Helping the Helpless: How You Can Help … Continue Reading

The Uncertain Role of Court Appointed Counsel in California Conservatorship Cases

A conservatorship, once ordered by a Superior Court judge in California, deprives a person of the right to control his or her financial affairs or person, or both.  When the judge appoints counsel for the proposed conservatee, what is the lawyer’s role?  Are the lawyer’s ordinary duties of loyalty and confidentiality diminished in the conservatorship … Continue Reading

Life Insurance Policy Benefits, Once Given Away, Cannot Be Redirected

When a man dies in California, who gets the proceeds of his life insurance policy? The answer seems obvious: the named beneficiaries in the paperwork received and accepted by the life insurance company. But what if the man gave the policy away during his lifetime? Can he cancel the gift and redirect the proceeds to … Continue Reading

Probate Code Provides Ground Rules for Who Gets What from Wills and Trusts

Many California will and trust disputes arise from ambiguity in the document with respect to who is entitled to an asset.  Maybe the document was hazy from the start or perhaps circumstances have changed such that the rightful recipient is no longer clear. Two cases decided in the California Court of Appeal last year illustrate … Continue Reading

Trustees Must Terminate California Trust if Terms Compel Distribution

Are six sibling co-trustees too many cooks in the kitchen? Many California trust disputes arise from disagreements among sibling co-trustees over how to administer Mom and Dad’s trust after the parents have passed. They all have a strong sense of what Mom and Dad wanted, but they don’t agree on what it was.  Thus, trust … Continue Reading

Litigators Should Be Collaborators, Not Lone Rangers

Trust and estate litigation attorneys are “trusted advisors.”  Like estate planning attorneys and other professionals who help clients with wealth management, we are fixers who assist clients with navigating conflict relating to a trust or estate.  While we spar in the probate departments of the Superior Court of California, at the end of the day … Continue Reading

A Neuropsychologist’s Take on Mental Capacity Evaluation

Mental capacity issues are commonplace in California trust and probate litigation.  Jonathan Canick, Ph.D., who spoke last year at the Sacramento Estate Planning Council on the subject of “Aging, Cognition and Capacity,” graciously offered to share his thoughts with us here. Dr. Canick has practiced neuropsychology for over 30 years. He is a member of … Continue Reading

Purple Rain Shower in California — Prince’s Estate Chases Northern California Law Firm

When musician Prince Rogers Nelson died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016, he had no estate plan in place, not even a will.  We blogged that “You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Need an Estate Plan.” As the third anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, his probate estate continues to be administered … Continue Reading
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