Jeffrey S. Galvin

Jeffrey S. Galvin


Jeffrey S. Galvin


Jeffrey Galvin represents clients in civil cases, focusing on California trust litigation and probate disputes.  His work often arises from conflicts between siblings, step-parents, and other family members.  He practices in Sacramento County, across Northern California, and in Northern Nevada.

Jeff advises trustees and executors who find themselves in conflict with beneficiaries, and he helps beneficiaries assert their rights to a share of trust and probate estates.  He prosecutes and defends trust contests and will contests, which frequently raise issues of mental capacity, undue influence, and elder financial abuse.  He also represents clients in contested conservatorships, as when siblings are in dispute over an aging parent’s care and finances.  Dementia, usually attributed to Alzheimer’s disease, is a major issue in many of the cases that Jeff handles.

He often works with clients who have little or no experience with legal disputes.  He helps clients understand their rights and duties, looks for cost-effective solutions, pursues information through the discovery process, uses mediation when appropriate, and takes matters to trial.  He brings an assertive, thoughtful and experienced approach to this emotionally-charged area of litigation.  He collaborates with colleagues at the firm who handle estate planning and trust/probate administration.  He speaks often on trust and estate litigation topics to estate planning attorneys and other wealth management professionals.  He is the creator and editor of Trust on Trial, a blog that discusses big issues and recent developments in California trust litigation.

Jeff handles complex business litigation and contract disputes in addition to trust and estate cases, with special interest in the areas of unfair competition and false advertising.


Jeff has successfully resolved the following California trust and estate disputes:

  • Represented a successor trustee who defended his father’s trust and will against his step-mother’s contest on a theory of undue influence.  The judge ruled in favor of Jeff’s client following a 25-day trial that featured testimony from forensic psychiatrists and other witnesses.  Judgment affirmed on appeal with costs awarded to client. 
  • Represented co-trustees sued for terminating family members who were acting as property managers of a trust-owned shopping center.  After a four-day hearing, the arbitrator ruled in favor of Jeff’s clients and awarded them more than $200,000 in legal expenses.
  • Represented a trustee in a petition to settle an accounting.  After a two-day trial, the judge overruled the objections of the trustee’s siblings/beneficiaries.
  • Appealed from an adverse ruling after a two-day trial and persuaded the Court of Appeal to overrule the judge’s order removing and surcharging his trustee client.
  • Represented an institutional fiduciary as beneficiary of a trust in a dispute over a general partner’s handling of a limited partnership that owned a valuable property near Lake Tahoe.  After two-day arbitration, the judge ruled in favor of Jeff’s client.
  • Represented claimant in $15M conservatorship dispute regarding validity of holographic (handwritten) will.  Case resolved successfully for client after trial began.
  • Represented clients who alleged that family member breached his oral promises to keep assets in the family by executing will and trust favoring non-family members. Recovered valuable real estate asset for clients in settlement agreement. 
  • Represented clients in contested conservatorship proceeding and trust amendment contest involving their mother. Conservator appointed.

Jeff’s other litigation experience includes the following:

  • Represented national bank in trial against large insurance company. Pierced corporate veil to hold affiliated corporation liable.  Prevailed on appeal and collected $2.1M judgment for client.
  • Represented truck manufacturer in administrative trial before California New Motor Vehicle Board regarding termination of dealer.  Agency upheld termination.
  • Represented Sacramento City Unified School District in challenge to charter school at Sacramento High campus.  Case resolved favorably for client.
  • Represented defendant accused of defamation in the context of political commentary. Won special motion to strike on First Amendment ground.
  • Represented large grocery chain in successful appeal involving scope of state constitutional right to circulate petitions.
  • Represented challengers to California's 2001 redistricting plan in trial court and on appeal.
  • Represented delivery company in statewide class action involving status of individuals as independent contractors or employees.  Limited scope of certified class.
  • While working at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, Jeff investigated and sued businesses engaged in deceptive practices in federal courts around the country.

Jeff also has substantial appellate experience, having argued five appeals before the California Court of Appeal and one appeal before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, Master and Barrister Member, 2010-present
  • Sacramento Estate Planning Council, Community Service Chair
  • Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Director and Executive Committee Member
  • VLSP Estate Planning Clinic, Lead Organizer
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee, Chair
  • State Bar Trusts and Estates Section, Litigation Subcommittee Member, 2012-2017
  • Linking Education and Economic Development, Former Director
  • Diogenes Youth Services, Former Director
  • Legal Services of Northern California and the Voluntary Legal Services Program (VLSP), Former Director
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Judiciary Committee, Probate and Estate Planning Section, Former Vice-Chair and Member
  • Downey Brand LLP, Pro Bono Coordinator, 2001-2008, 2011-2015
  • Downey Brand LLP, Assistant General Counsel

Honors And Rankings

  • AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • AVVO Rating 10 out of 10
  • Recipient, Joe Ramsey Voice of Conscience Award, Anthony M. Kennedy Inn of Court, 2018
  • Recipient, June Black Pro Bono Award, 2017
  • Sacramento Business Journal, Best of the Bar, 2015, 2017-2018
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Estate Planning & Probate, General Litigation, 2015-2019
  • Attorney Delegate from the Eastern District of California to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference
  • Law Clerk to the Honorable John G. Davies, United States District Court, Central District of California

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