Directed Trusts

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on July 12, 2023

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Definition of Directed Trusts

Directed trusts are a specialized form of trust arrangement that provides greater flexibility and control to trust beneficiaries.

Unlike traditional trusts, where the trustee has complete discretion and authority over trust assets, directed trusts allow the beneficiaries to play a more active role in the administration and management of the trust.

In a directed trust, the trustee's responsibilities are divided into two distinct roles: the administrative trustee and the directing trustee. The administrative trustee is responsible for the traditional fiduciary duties, such as record-keeping, tax filings, and distribution of trust assets.

The directing trustee, on the other hand, takes instructions from the beneficiaries or other designated parties regarding the investment decisions and other aspects of trust administration.

Directed trusts are particularly popular in situations where trust assets are diverse or complex, such as when the trust holds various types of investments, real estate properties, or business interests.

By allowing beneficiaries to direct the trustee's actions within predefined boundaries, directed trusts facilitate a more tailored approach to managing trust assets.

Key Parties Involved in Directed Trusts

1. Trustor/Settlor/Grantor: The individual who establishes and funds the trust.

2. Trustee: The person or institution responsible for managing the trust assets according to the terms of the trust.

3. Trust Protector: An individual or entity appointed to oversee the trust and ensure that the trustee and other parties are acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

4. Beneficiary: The person or persons who are intended to benefit from the trust assets.

Purpose and Advantages of Directed Trusts

Directed trusts offer several benefits over traditional trust arrangements, making them an attractive option for many individuals and families.

Tailored Investment Management

Directed trusts allow the trustor to appoint an investment advisor who is responsible for managing the trust's assets. This enables the trustor to select an advisor with specific expertise in a particular asset class or investment strategy.

Enhanced Asset Protection

Directed trusts can provide increased asset protection from creditors, divorce settlements, and other potential liabilities. By separating the management of trust assets from the distribution of assets to beneficiaries, directed trusts can create an additional layer of protection.

Flexibility in Decision-Making

Directed trusts enable trustors to delegate specific decision-making powers to different parties, such as investment management to an investment advisor and distribution decisions to a distribution advisor. This allows for more targeted and efficient decision-making within the trust.

Efficient Tax Planning

Directed trusts can be an effective tool for tax planning, as they can be established in jurisdictions with favorable trust laws and tax regulations.

Privacy and Confidentiality

Directed trusts can provide greater privacy and confidentiality for trustees and beneficiaries, as trust documents and assets can be kept private and out of public records.

Types of Directed Trusts

There are several types of directed trusts, each with different roles and responsibilities for the parties involved.


Administrative Directed Trusts

In an administrative directed trust, the trustee is responsible for the administrative functions of the trust, such as record-keeping and tax filings, while the trust protector or other party retains control over investment and distribution decisions.

Investment Directed Trusts

In an investment directed trust, the trustee delegates investment management responsibilities to an investment advisor, who is responsible for managing the trust's assets according to the trust's investment strategy.

Distribution Directed Trusts

In a distribution directed trust, the trustee delegates the power to make distribution decisions to a distribution advisor, who is responsible for determining when and how trust assets should be distributed to beneficiaries.

Hybrid Directed Trusts

Hybrid directed trusts combine elements of administrative, investment, and distribution directed trusts. This type of trust allows for the greatest level of flexibility in decision-making and asset management.

Roles and Responsibilities in Directed Trusts

The different parties involved in a directed trust each have specific roles and responsibilities.



Fiduciary Duties

The trustee has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the trust beneficiaries and to follow the terms of the trust document.

Administrative Functions

The trustee is responsible for the administrative functions of the trust, including record-keeping, tax filings, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Trust Protector

Role in Overseeing Trust Activities

The trust protector oversees the activities of the trustee, investment advisor, and distribution advisor to ensure they are acting in the best interests of the beneficiaries and in accordance with the trust document.

Powers and Responsibilities

The trust protector may have the authority to remove and replace trustees or advisors, resolve disputes, and approve or veto trust actions.

Investment Advisor

Asset Management

The investment advisor is responsible for managing the trust's assets according to the investment strategy outlined in the trust document.

Investment Strategies

The investment advisor should develop and implement investment strategies that align with the trust's objectives and risk tolerance.

Distribution Advisor

Discretionary Distributions

The distribution advisor is responsible for making decisions regarding the distribution of trust assets to beneficiaries.

Assessing Beneficiary Needs

The distribution advisor should consider the needs of the beneficiaries, as well as the trust's overall objectives when making distribution decisions.

Establishing a Directed Trust

Creating a directed trust involves several steps, including selecting the appropriate jurisdiction, drafting the trust document, choosing the right trustee and trust protector, and funding the trust.

Selecting the Appropriate Jurisdiction

Choosing the right jurisdiction for a directed trust is important, as trust laws and tax regulations can vary significantly between jurisdictions. Trustors should consider factors such as asset protection, tax benefits, and the reputation of the jurisdiction when making this decision.

Drafting the Trust Document

The trust document should clearly outline the purpose of the trust, the roles and responsibilities of the trustee, trust protector, investment advisor, and distribution advisor, and any specific instructions regarding investment management and distributions.

Choosing the Right Trustee and Trust Protector

Selecting a trustworthy and experienced trustee and trust protector is crucial for the successful administration of a directed trust. Trustors should carefully consider the qualifications, experience, and reputation of potential candidates.

Funding the Trust

Once the trust document has been drafted and the parties have been selected, the trustor must fund the trust with assets. This can include cash, investments, real estate, or other types of assets.

Challenges and Risks of Directed Trusts

Directed trusts can present certain challenges and risks, including potential conflicts of interest, liability concerns, regulatory and compliance issues, and complexities in trust administration.

Potential Conflicts of Interest

Conflicts of interest can arise when the interests of the trustee, trust protector, investment advisor, or distribution advisor conflict with the best interests of the trust beneficiaries.

Liability Concerns

Directed trusts can create liability concerns for the trustee and other parties, particularly if they fail to fulfill their fiduciary duties or act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Regulatory and Compliance Issues

Directed trusts must adhere to all applicable trust laws and regulations, which can vary by jurisdiction. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal and financial consequences for the trust and its parties.

Complexities in Trust Administration

The administration of a directed trust can be complex, particularly when multiple parties are involved in decision-making and asset management. This complexity can create challenges in trust administration and increase the potential for disputes and litigation.


Directed trusts offer a flexible and innovative approach to estate planning and asset management. By dividing roles and responsibilities among different parties, trustors can create a tailored investment strategy, enhance asset protection, and maintain greater control over trust decisions.

However, it is important to be aware of the potential challenges and risks associated with directed trusts, including conflicts of interest, liability concerns, and regulatory and compliance issues.

When considering the use of directed trusts, it is essential to carefully select the appropriate jurisdiction, draft a clear and detailed trust document, and choose experienced and trustworthy parties to serve as trustees, trust protectors, and advisors.

As directed trusts continue to evolve, trustors and practitioners should stay informed about future trends and developments in this area to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks associated with this powerful estate planning tool.

Directed Trusts FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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