Fees for executors depend on such factors as the statutes concerning executor fees in the state in which the decedent resided and the will is probated. Some states refer to executors as personal representatives. Other factors include the amount of time and effort the executor must spend working on the estate. Depending on the state, the probate court or its equivalent in a particular state must approve executor compensation.
Duties and Responsibilities
No matter where probated, executors or personal representatives have fiduciary duties and responsibilities to the estate. In certain states, executors most post a bond upon official appointment by the court. In general, executors must file a petition for probate in the probate court or state equivalent -- New Jersey and New York use the term Surrogate's Court -- along with the original will and a certified copy of the death certificate. After receiving letters testamentary or the equivalent documents used in the state, the executor may begin estate administration. This includes safeguarding the decedent's assets, inventorying all real estate and personal property solely owned by the decedent and establishing a value at the date of death, paying the estate's debts, filing taxes, and distributing remaining assets to designated heirs and beneficiaries
Some state probate codes or statutes refer only to "reasonable compensation" for executor fees. In such cases, compensation depends on the amount of time and effort necessary for estate administration. Executors administrating estates in states with reasonable compensation laws such keep careful records of their time and duties for submitting reasonable compensation expenses in the final accounting for the probate court, which must approve executor fees.
Percentage of Assets
Some state statutes outline the exact percentage of the estate's assets an executor may receive as compensation. For example, a New York executor, by statute, is entitled to 5 percent on "receiving and paying out all sums of money" under $100,000; 4 percent under $200,000; 3 percent under $700,000; 2.5 percent under $4 million and 2 percent percent above $5 million. While amounts and percentages vary depending on the state with percentage statutes, the pattern of larger percentages on smaller amounts, so executors receive some compensation, and smaller percentages on larger amounts is standard.
Fees Established in the Will
In many cases, the testator's will specfies the amount of compensation due the executor or personal representative. Generally, if the amount is greater than specified in a state with a specific percentage statute, the executor can receive the amount designated in the will. However, if the amount is less, or the executor does not find the designated amount "reasonable compensation," she may receive the larger percentage amount specified by statute or petition the court, giving evidence of the amount of work done to establish reasonable compensation. Each state has specific procedures or statutes to deal with this issue.