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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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

Sacramento Financial Elder Abuse – Next Steps for Victims and Their Advocates

Elder financial abuse is all too common in Sacramento County and elsewhere.  The abuser, often a family member or caregiver, drains away the resources of an elder or dependent adult who cannot work to replenish them.  By the time the theft is discovered, the money may be long gone and the victim may be saddled … Continue Reading

A Sacramento Estate Planner Shares Thoughts on Conflict Avoidance

I asked estate planning attorney John Goralka, of the Goralka Law Firm in Sacramento, to share his thoughts on working with clients to avoid disputes over their estate plans. John has been a lawyer since 1988.  The State Bar of California has certified him as a specialist in both Taxation Law and Estate Planning, Trust … Continue Reading

Are California Trusts that Favor Spouses Presumptively Invalid?

(Editor’s Note: The post below was published on November 21, 2016.  California law as to undue influence presumptions between spouses changed on January 1, 2020, due to Assembly Bill 327, discussed in a subsequent post.) When Wife works with her Sacramento estate planning lawyer to favor her Husband over her children from a prior marriage … Continue Reading

New Guidance on Role of Mental Health Experts in California Undue Influence Cases

As a trust litigation attorney in Sacramento, I often make or defend against allegations of undue influence in the context of a trust amendment that favors one beneficiary over another. In this setting, what is the proper role of a mental health expert, such as a forensic psychiatrist, with regard to evaluating undue influence? Last … Continue Reading

Sacramento Court Limits Reach of Anti-SLAPP Law in Trust Disputes

A few months ago, I wrote about the anti-SLAPP statute as a powerful defensive tool in California trust and estate litigation. Adding new light to the subject is a Sacramento-based appellate court’s decision in Greco v. Greco (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 810. The case narrows the ability of fiduciaries to bring motions to dismiss under the … Continue Reading

When Does Bad Behavior in Trust and Estate Disputes Become Criminal?

Many trust and estate disputes in Sacramento County Superior Court and elsewhere involve financial elder abuse. Concerned family members may sue the wrongdoer in civil court to recover monetary damages. But what about criminal penalties? When does the “bad guy” (or gal) end up in jail? While many of my clients are rightfully outraged about … Continue Reading

Sacramento Trust and Probate Litigation “Boot Camp” Program

The Sacramento County Bar Association’s Probate and Estate Planning Section hosted its first ever “boot camp” program on trust and estate litigation on September 20, 2016. As an alternative to the monthly lunch programs, the Section offered a six-hour seminar at its office at 425 University Avenue in Sacramento. The program drew a full house … Continue Reading

Court in California Trust Contest Invalidates Transfer to Drafting Attorney

  “An ethical estate planning attorney will plan for his client, not for himself.” With those words, the California Court of Appeal recently ripped Southern California attorney John LeBouef for taking advantage “of an elderly and mentally infirm person to enrich himself.”  In Butler v. LeBouef (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 198, the appellate court affirmed the … Continue Reading

Watch Out for SLAPPs in California Trust and Estate Litigation

In heated California trust and estate litigation, one party’s petition to the probate court often leads the other side to file a retaliatory petition. If Sally petitions in Sacramento County Superior Court to contest Mom’s trust amendment on the ground that Mom had Alzheimer’s disease and lacked sufficient mental capacity to reduce Sally’s share, brother … Continue Reading

California “Parent Custody” Battles Leave Everyone Bruised

Most California trust and estate disputes are emotionally intense, and none more so than sibling conflicts over the care of an aging parent. Like a child custody fight in the family law context, siblings battle over whether Mom will remain in the home where she lives, move in with one of them, or move to … Continue Reading

“You Don’t Have to Be Rich” to Need a Plan

Prince died in April 2016 without a will or trust, according to documents recently filed by his sister in the Carver County District Court in Minnesota. Perhaps a will or trust will surface eventually, as occurred with Michael Jackson’s estate. However, the revelation in “The Morning Papers” that Prince died intestate (legalese for no will … Continue Reading

Alzheimer’s Disease Requires a Close Look in California Trust Litigation

For a richly-detailed profile of a woman’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease, read “Fraying at the Edges,” an article by N. R. Kleinfield that appeared on May 1, 2016 in the New York Times. The author follows Geri Taylor, who was first diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment in 2012 at age 69, and introduces us to … Continue Reading

Fund Your California Trust Now to Avoid the “Lost and Found” Later

A trust is a vehicle for managing and disposing of property. Just as you don’t want to leave your suitcase on the beach when you return from vacation, you should ensure that your assets are securely loaded into the trust you have created. If you don’t, your assets may end up held in the legal … Continue Reading

Undue Influence – A Titanic Challenge for Estate Planning Attorneys

Spotting undue influence is no easy task for estate planning attorneys. When Mom wants to change her trust to favor Sally over Johnny, Mom presumably is making her own choice for her own reasons. But it’s also possible that Sally, behind the scenes, is pushing Mom to make the change. An estate planner is like … Continue Reading
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