As of January 1, 2024, California has introduced a significant update to its estate planning laws with the enactment of the California Uniform Directed Trust Act, Senate Bill No. 801, joining 46 other states with similar laws. This new legislation could greatly impact how trusts are administered, offering more flexibility and protection for those involved in managing trust assets. Let's delve into what this means for families and how it can enhance your estate planning strategy.


What is a Directed Trust?

A directed trust is a type of trust where the responsibilities of managing the trust are divided among different roles. Unlike traditional trusts, where a single trustee holds all administrative duties, directed trusts allow for a "trust director" who can take on specific duties, such as managing investments or directing distributions. This separation can provide targeted expertise and also reduce the risk for trustees.


How Does The New Legislation Impact Trust Management?

Senate Bill No. 801, also known as the California Uniform Directed Trust Act, adds a structured framework to the Probate Code, allowing for the formal establishment of directed trusts. This legislation specifies the roles and responsibilities of both the trust director and the directed trustee, including:

Roles Defined: The trust director can influence certain aspects of the trust's administration, but they are not a trustee themselves. Their actions must align with the trust's terms and they are accountable for their decisions unless exempt under specific conditions (like acting within professional healthcare duties).

Protection for Trustees: Directed trustees are required to follow the directions of trust directors unless doing so would lead to willful misconduct. This provision offers a layer of legal protection that wasn't explicitly defined in previous trust laws.

Flexibility in Trust Administration: The act allows for more tailored management of trust assets and is especially beneficial for complex or unique assets like family businesses or large investment portfolios.


Benefits of Using a Directed Trust

Directed trusts provide several advantages for estate planning, including:

Expertise in Asset Management: You can appoint specialized directors for different aspects of the trust, such as a financial advisor for investments or a real estate expert for property management.

Reduced Liability for Trustees: By clearly defining roles and responsibilities, the risk of legal repercussions for trustees is minimized, focusing liability on the actions within their control.

Increased Control for Settlors: If you're setting up a trust, you can have greater say in how specific assets are handled.


Is a Directed Trust Right for You?

Determining whether a directed trust is suitable for your estate planning needs depends on several factors. If you have complex assets, desire high control over how your assets are managed, or wish to involve family members or trusted advisors in specific roles, a directed trust might be ideal. However, it's crucial to consult with a qualified estate planning attorney to understand the full implications and ensure it aligns with your overall goals.

California's new directed trust legislation provides a progressive tool for estate planning, aligning with modern needs and complex asset structures. By understanding and utilizing this new option, you can secure a more robust and flexible approach to managing your legacy. Remember, every estate situation is unique, so consider seeking professional advice to make informed decisions about integrating a directed trust into your estate plan.

If you, a friend, or family member need help establishing or updating an estate plan, please reach out to our Intake Department at 760-448-2220 or at We have offices in San Diego County (Carlsbad) and Orange County (Laguna Niguel), but we assist can families throughout California as well.

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