Jeffrey S. Galvin

Partner

Jeff Galvin advocates for clients in trust and estate litigation and other civil disputes. Based in Sacramento, he handles cases across Northern California and in Northern Nevada.

Drawing on his experience as a litigator, Jeff guides trustees, executors and other fiduciaries who are dealing with difficult situations, such as murky trust documents and challenging beneficiaries. He helps clients understand their duties and complete the administration process, seeking judicial rulings as necessary. Jeff also represents beneficiaries, including individuals and charities, who seek their rightful shares of trust and probate assets. Jeff pursues conservatorships in high conflict situations, as when siblings are in conflict over an elderly parent’s care and/or finances.

Over the years, Jeff has prosecuted and defended many will and trust contests, which often arise from a late-in-life estate planning change that favors one person over another. Mental capacity, undue influence, and financial elder abuse are commonly at issue in such cases. Many of Jeff’s cases involve seniors with dementia, usually attributed to Alzheimer’s disease.

Jeff 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, uses mediation when appropriate, and takes matters to hearing or trial. Jeff brings an assertive, thoughtful and experienced approach to this emotionally-charged area of litigation.

Jeff created and edits Trust on Trial, a leading blog on California trust and estate litigation that is an educational resource for lawyers and members of the public. He serves in a statewide leadership position as a member of the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section of the California Lawyers Association. He speaks frequently on trust and estate disputes to audiences of lawyers and related professionals.

Having started his legal career at the Federal Trade Commission, 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.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • California Lawyers Association, Trusts and Estates Section, Executive Committee Member
  • Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Director and Treasurer
  • Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, Executive Committee and Master Member
  • Capital Pro Bono Estate Planning Project, Lead Organizer
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee, Chair, 2017-2020
  • Sacramento Estate Planning Council, Various Leadership Positions, 2014-2021
  • State Bar of California, Trusts and Estates Section, Litigation Subcommittee, 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, Former Director
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Judiciary Committee, Former Vice-Chair and Member
  • Operation Protect and Defend, Volunteer Discussion Leader
  • Downey Brand LLP, Pro Bono Coordinator, 2001-2008, 2011-2015
  • Downey Brand LLP, Assistant General Counsel

Honors & Rankings

  • AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • AVVO Rating 10 out of 10
  • Best Lawyers® 2023 Litigation- Trusts and Estates “Lawyer of the Year” in Sacramento
  • Best Lawyers in America©, Litigation-Trusts and Estates, 2021-2023
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Super Lawyer, Estate and Trust Litigation, 2021-2022
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Estate Planning & Probate, General Litigation, 2015-2022
  • JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards, Top Author, Wealth Management, 2020-2021
  • 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, 2017-2019
  • Attorney Delegate, United States District Court, Eastern District of California to United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference
  • Clerkship, Honorable John G. Davies, United States District Court, Central District of California
  • Order of the Coif

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 family member in trust dispute involving historic cattle ranch. Client obtained favorable outcome in negotiated resolution.
  • 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.

Announcements

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In the News

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Speaking Engagements / Events

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Blogs

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Legal Alerts

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Publications

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Jeff founded and leads Downey Brand’s pro bono program, through which dozens of the firm’s lawyers provide assistance to needy persons and community organizations. He trains at daybreak three mornings a week with Sacramento Masters Swimming, and enjoys fly fishing and SCUBA adventures.


Professional, Community And Pro Bono Involvement

  • California Lawyers Association, Trusts and Estates Section, Executive Committee Member
  • Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, Director and Treasurer
  • Anthony M. Kennedy American Inn of Court, Executive Committee and Master Member
  • Capital Pro Bono Estate Planning Project, Lead Organizer
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Pro Bono Committee, Chair, 2017-2020
  • Sacramento Estate Planning Council, Various Leadership Positions, 2014-2021
  • State Bar of California, Trusts and Estates Section, Litigation Subcommittee, 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, Former Director
  • Sacramento County Bar Association Judiciary Committee, Former Vice-Chair and Member
  • Operation Protect and Defend, Volunteer Discussion Leader
  • Downey Brand LLP, Pro Bono Coordinator, 2001-2008, 2011-2015
  • Downey Brand LLP, Assistant General Counsel

Honors & Rankings

  • AV Preeminent® Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • AVVO Rating 10 out of 10
  • Best Lawyers® 2023 Litigation- Trusts and Estates “Lawyer of the Year” in Sacramento
  • Best Lawyers in America©, Litigation-Trusts and Estates, 2021-2023
  • Super Lawyers, Northern California Super Lawyer, Estate and Trust Litigation, 2021-2022
  • Sacramento Magazine, Top Lawyer, Estate Planning & Probate, General Litigation, 2015-2022
  • JD Supra Readers’ Choice Awards, Top Author, Wealth Management, 2020-2021
  • 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, 2017-2019
  • Attorney Delegate, United States District Court, Eastern District of California to United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference
  • Clerkship, Honorable John G. Davies, United States District Court, Central District of California
  • Order of the Coif