Discretionary Power of Appointment

Discretionary Power of Appointment
Discretionary Power of Appointment
Full Overview Of Discretionary Power of Appointment

As a team of solicitors specialising in probate, we comprehend the intricacies and sensitivities of estate planning and administration.

One vital tool we often use to ensure our client’s desires are fulfilled, and their beneficiaries are well protected is the discretionary power of appointment. This legal mechanism provides considerable flexibility and control for both the settlor (the person creating the trust) and the trustees (the individuals or entities managing the trust).

What is Discretionary Power of Appointment?

A Discretionary Power of Appointment is a provision in a trust that grants trustees the authority to decide how the trust’s assets are distributed among a specified class of beneficiaries. Unlike fixed trusts, where beneficiaries have predetermined rights to the trust’s assets, discretionary trusts give trustees the discretion to allocate income and capital in varying proportions as they see fit. This discretionary nature allows for a more tailored approach to meeting the changing needs and circumstances of the beneficiaries.

Key Benefits

  1. Flexibility: The primary advantage of a discretionary power of appointment is its inherent flexibility. Trustees can adapt their decisions based on the beneficiaries’ current situations, which may change over time due to factors such as health, financial status, or personal circumstances.
  2. Protection from Creditors: Assets held within a discretionary trust are generally protected from creditors of the beneficiaries, as the beneficiaries do not have a fixed right to the trust’s assets. This can be particularly beneficial in safeguarding family wealth across generations.
  3. Tax Efficiency: Discretionary trusts can be structured to optimise tax efficiency. For instance, by distributing income to beneficiaries who are in lower tax brackets, the overall tax liability on the trust’s income can be minimised.
  4. Control: The settlor can outline specific guidelines and wishes in the trust deed, providing a framework for the trustees while still allowing them the discretion to act in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Roles and Responsibilities

The effective use of a discretionary power of appointment hinges on the competence and integrity of the trustees. Trustees are required to act impartially and in accordance with the terms of the trust deed, exercising their powers for the benefit of the beneficiaries as a whole.


  • Decision-Making: Trustees must consider the individual needs and circumstances of each beneficiary before making decisions. This often involves regular reviews and consultations to ensure their decisions remain appropriate and beneficial.
  • Record-Keeping: Detailed records of trustees’ decisions and their rationale must be maintained. This transparency helps defend the trustees’ actions if they are ever questioned by the beneficiaries or other interested parties.
  • Compliance: Trustees must comply with legal and regulatory requirements, including tax reporting and filing obligations. This ensures the trust remains in good standing and avoids potential legal issues.


  • Trust Deed: The settlor should provide clear instructions in the trust deed while allowing sufficient discretion for the trustees to manage the trust effectively. This balance helps trustees understand the settlor’s intentions while giving them the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.
  • Letter of Wishes: Although not legally binding, a letter of wishes can provide additional guidance to trustees. It offers insight into the settlor’s preferences and priorities, assisting trustees in making decisions that align with the settlor’s overall vision.


A Discretionary Power of Appointment is a powerful tool in estate planning, offering unparalleled flexibility and protection for beneficiaries. As specialists in probate, we ensure that trusts are meticulously drafted, trustees are well-informed, and the settlor’s wishes are comprehensively reflected. By leveraging our expertise, we aim to provide peace of mind to our clients, knowing that their legacy is managed with care and precision, adapted to the evolving needs of their beneficiaries.

Should you have any questions or require further assistance in understanding how a discretionary power of appointment can benefit your estate planning, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our team is here to provide expert guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

Discretionary Power of Appointment FAQ'S

A Discretionary Power of Appointment is a legal authority given to a trustee or other fiduciary to distribute trust property or assets among a group of beneficiaries at their discretion.

Typically, the trustee or another appointed fiduciary can exercise this power. The person holding this power is often referred to as the ‘appointor’.

In a fixed trust, the beneficiaries and their entitlements are predetermined and fixed in the trust document. In contrast, a discretionary trust gives the appointor flexibility to decide how, when, and to whom the trust assets are distributed.

No, beneficiaries of a discretionary trust do not have an absolute right to any specific part of the trust property. They can request distributions, but it is up to the discretion of the appointor to decide.

The appointor should consider the terms of the trust deed, the needs and circumstances of the beneficiaries, and any guidance provided by the settlor. They must act in good faith and in the best interests of the beneficiaries.

Yes, the decisions can be challenged if it is believed that the appointor has acted improperly, such as acting in bad faith, with bias, or not following the terms of the trust. Legal action can be taken in such cases.

Discretionary trusts can have specific tax implications, including inheritance tax, income tax, and capital gains tax. The appointor should seek professional tax advice to understand the consequences of any distributions.

Yes, the trust deed can impose certain limits or guidelines on how the discretionary power should be exercised. These restrictions must be followed by the appointor.

If the appointor fails to exercise their power, the trust assets may remain undistributed, or the default provisions of the trust deed may come into effect, which can specify how the assets should be distributed in the absence of an appointment.

Whether a discretionary power can be delegated depends on the terms of the trust deed and relevant laws. Generally, such powers are personal and cannot be delegated unless expressly allowed by the trust document.


This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 16th July 2024.

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DLS Solicitors : Family Law Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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