Making Directed Trusts Work: The Uniform Directed Trust Act

59 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2018 Last revised: 29 Feb 2020

Date Written: September 28, 2018


Directed trusts have become a familiar feature of trust practice in spite of considerable legal uncertainty about them. Fortunately, the Uniform Law Commission has just finished work on the Uniform Directed Trust Act (UDTA), a new uniform law that offers clear solutions to the many legal uncertainties surrounding directed trusts. This article offers an overview of the UDTA, with particular emphasis on four areas of practical innovation. The first is a careful allocation of fiduciary duties. The UDTA’s basic approach is to take the law of trusteeship and attach it to whichever person holds the powers of trusteeship, even if that person is not formally a trustee. Thus, under the UDTA the fiduciary responsibility for a power of direction attaches primarily to the trust director (or trust protector or trust adviser) who holds the power, with only a diminished duty to avoid “willful misconduct” applying to a directed trustee (or administrative trustee). The second innovation is a comprehensive treatment of non-fiduciary issues, such as appointment, vacancy, and limitations. Here again, the UDTA largely absorbs the law of trusteeship for a trust director. The UDTA also deals with new and distinctive subsidiary problems that do not arise in ordinary trusts, such as the sharing of information between a trustee and a trust director. The third innovation is a reconciliation of directed trusts with the traditional law of cotrusteeship. The UDTA permits a settlor to allocate fiduciary duties between cotrustees in a manner similar to the allocation between a trust director and directed trustee in a directed trust. A final innovation is a careful system of exclusions that preserves existing law and settlor autonomy with respect to tax planning, revocable trusts, powers of appointment, and other issues. All told, if appropriately modified to fit local policy preferences, the UDTA could improve on the directed trust law of every state. The UDTA can also be used by practitioners in any state to identify the key issues in a directed trust and to find sensible, well-drafted solutions that can be absorbed into the terms of a directed trust.

Keywords: trust, directed trust, trust director, directed trustee, trust protector, trust adviser, fiduciary duty, willful misconduct, Uniform Directed Trust Act, co-trustees

JEL Classification: K11, K34, K36

Suggested Citation

Morley, John D. and Sitkoff, Robert H., Making Directed Trusts Work: The Uniform Directed Trust Act (September 28, 2018). 44 ACTEC Law Journal 1 (2018, Forthcoming), Yale Law & Economics Research Paper No. 601, Harvard Public Law Working Paper No. 19-02, Available at SSRN:

John D. Morley

Yale Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
(203) 436-3527 (Phone)

Robert H. Sitkoff (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
(617) 384-8386 (Phone)
(617) 812-6195 (Fax)


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