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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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

California Trust Litigation Update: Trust Assets May Be Used to Defend Contests … Sometimes

A contest over the validity of a trust or a trust amendment is an expensive undertaking, typically requiring extensive discovery and a lengthy trial. Can a trustee use the trust’s assets as a war chest to fight off the contestant, even when the trustee is a beneficiary of the challenged trust document and thus has … Continue Reading

Opening the Curtains of Attorney-Client Privilege

The attorney-client privilege, a bedrock principle of our legal system, protects confidential communications between clients and their attorneys, and the lawyer’s duty to preserve client confidences generally continues after the death of the client. Under the California Business and Professions Code, lawyers must “maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself or herself … Continue Reading

What Role Should Mental Health Experts Play in Undue Influence Cases?

At the start of trial recently in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton, I sparred with opposing counsel over the role of the retained mental health experts with regard to testimony on undue influence. The contestant alleged that her brother unduly influenced their parents to disfavor her when they amended their trust. Sister retained … Continue Reading

When Can You Remove a Problem Trustee?

In California trust administrations, the trustee is in the driver’s seat. The trustee marshals the assets, deals with creditors, and (except in the case of ongoing trusts) gets them distributed out to the beneficiaries in fractional shares per the terms of the trust. But what happens when the trustee favors himself as a beneficiary, disfavors … Continue Reading

How Fictional Is John Grisham’s Novel About a Will Contest?

On a road trip over the holidays, I listened to John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, as artfully read by Michael Beck. Published in 2013, it’s a sequel to Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, and again features young country lawyer Jake Brigance. This time, instead of an accused man, he’s defending the handwritten will of … Continue Reading

An Introduction to Department 129 of Sacramento County Superior Court

This month Judge Steven M. Gevercer will replace Judge David F. De Alba as the probate judge in Department 129 of the Sacramento County Superior Court. Judge Gevercer was appointed to the bench by Governor Jerry Brown in 2012 and previously served in the California Attorney General’s Office. Judges typically spend a year or two … Continue Reading

You May Have to Challenge Mom’s Trust Amendment Before She Dies

Most will and trust contests in California start several months after the death of the person who created the document. Such litigation has a forensic quality: did Mom have sufficient mental capacity back when she signed the will/trust, or was she the victim of undue influence? Mom is not around to testify as to what … Continue Reading

Tick, Tock … When Will I Get My Share of Mom and Dad’s Trust?

Most family trusts call for the outright distribution of assets to specific individuals (i.e., remainder beneficiaries) after the creators of the trust are gone.  In the most common scenario, the assets get doled out to the adult kids after Mom and Dad pass.  Even when a trustee is diligent and the situation is straightforward, it … Continue Reading

Put Up Your Dukes: Courts Can Fix Mistakes in Wills … Sometimes

Sound estate planning requires a clear description of how property will pass upon death – in other words, who gets what. So what happens when the written terms differ from what the will’s creator actually wanted? Earlier this year, the California Supreme Court ruled in Estate of Duke (2015) 61 Cal.4th 871 that courts may … Continue Reading

The Rising Tide of Trust and Estate Litigation

Inheritance fights are nothing new, nor is public fascination with them. Charles Dickens published Bleak House in 1853, satirizing the English legal system in the context of the fictional case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. More recently, John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, released in 2013, was at the top of the New York Times best seller list. … Continue Reading
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