David Gaw


If you were represented by Dave at his prior firm, click here.

When Dave was 13 years of age he was interested in politics, even though his parents were apolitical.  Sitting on a Russian River beach with the then Mayor of Berkeley, Dave asked “What do you do if you like politics?”  The Mayor replied, “You become an attorney.”  At that moment, Dave decided he was going to be an attorney.  Despite the fact that he had never met an attorney and had no exposure to the legal profession, he never wavered from this desire.

Dave graduated sixth in his class of more than 350 students at Hastings College of Law and could have practiced in virtually any community, but chose Napa and has never left.  During his 45-year career practicing here, Dave has become one of California’s most recognized and trusted estate planning lawyers.  Co-founding Gaw Van Male (GVM) in the early 70’s, his practice focused exclusively on the areas of law that are his passion – Estate Planning, Trust Administration and Elder Law.


Prior to the publication of Dave’s material, there was no written or acknowledged process for the administration of a living trust on the death of a single person, on the death of the first Spouse to die, or on the death of the Surviving Spouse.  Dave created a comprehensive system for administering a trust which included standard forms and processes.  This system continues to be widely used by estate planning lawyers and paralegals throughout California.

  • CEB California Trust Administration – Chapters: Administering the Single-Person Trust After Settlor’s Death; Subtrust Allocation; and Funding on the Death of the First Spouse
  • Co-authored: Administering Moderate Married Settlor Trust on the Death of the First Spouse and Further Steps After the Death of the First Spouse.
  • CEB Action Guides Marital Deduction Subtrust Funding and Administering a Single-Person Trust After Settlor’s Death.

Education and Speaking Engagements

For many years, Dave has been educating CPAs, Attorneys, the public, and his clients through speaking engagements.

Preparing Attorneys for the California Specialization Exam

One of the highest achievements for an estate planning lawyer in California is to become a Certified Specialist (http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/Legal-Specialization).  The specialization exam is administered by the State Bar every two years.  From 2007 until 2017, the California State Bar Trusts and Estates Section chose Dave and one other lawyer as instructors preparing attorneys for this exam.

Dave’s Certifications and Memberships

Dave’s Honors and Awards

  • Northern California Super Lawyer – 2004-2018
  • Martindale-Hubbell – AV Preeminent; Currently and for a very significant number of years.
  • Spirit of CEB Award – For contribution to the continuing education of the legal profession; California Continuing Education of the Bar; 2008
  • California CPA Education Foundation Award – For authorship of the single all-around most outstanding Education Foundation course; 2007
  • Attorney of the Year – Napa County Legal Secretaries Association; 1998
  • Outstanding Educator Award – California Continuing Education of the Bar; 2005 – 2006