It’s all about trust for Gardner Govan and his clients.
The shareholder at Godfrey & Kahn and immediate past chair of the firm’s estate-planning group spends most of his time on matters related to estate planning, business succession, taxation and probate administration.
In his career, Govan has received a lot of help along the way from Dudley Godfrey, a founder of the firm, and Henry Fuldner, a senior shareholder. Both taught him the value of providing outstanding service and gaining clients’ trust. Lawyers who do both, he said, win respect not only for their legal acumen but also their ability to provide business advice.
Govan’s specialties often have him working closely with company owners both to help them with succession plans and to minimize any taxes owed on assets that are to be transferred to future owners.
“The fulfilling part of it all is you get to know families. It takes something different to understand a business and give advice from the business planning side of things,” Govan said.
Some of Govan’s current relationships date to near the start of his 30-year career.
“He provides comfort to the client. It’s become personal to him too,” said Shannon Braun, a Godfrey & Kahn associate who works with Govan on estate plans and sees him as a mentor. “He really serves that role of the trusted advisor.”
“Gardner is the first person I go to for advice in navigating any complex client relations,” Braun said.
And she’s not the only one.
“Many people seek his counsel,” she said. “Gardner is one of the most highly regarded and well-respected estate planning attorneys in the county and state.”
As the former chair of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law section of the Wisconsin State Bar, he was instrumental in the legislative planning and drafting of Wisconsin’s trust code. And his interest hasn’t ended there. He now finds himself working on revisions to the same code.
Govan is a fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, which selects fellows based on their abilities, reputation in the profession and substantial contributions to estate-planning law through their writing, speaking, teaching and bar activities.
“For anyone who’s seen him speak, there’s no doubt that he has the command of the law,” Braun said.