Do will executors get paid?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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Usually yes. Someone who serves as executor or personal representative of an estate is entitled to get paid for the job. In addition to all out-of-pocket expenses in managing and settling the estate, executors generally earn a fee of about 2% of the probate value of the estate for their work. (This varies some from state to state, and the percentage generally decreases as the size of the estate increases.)

Additional fees may be allowed by the court in extraordinary circumstances or cases of unusual difficulty. On the other hand, if the executor is derelict in duty, or engages in self-dealing, the court may reduce or deny compensation, and the executor also may be held personally responsible for his or her negligence or misconduct. Be wary if the heirs are contentious, as the likelihood is that the executor will be dragged into the fray.

If a person is the sole beneficiary of the estate, unless the estate exceeds $2 million (for those who die in 2007 and 2008) so that it is subject to federal estate tax, it may not make sense to take any executor’s fees. The money a beneficiary receives from the estate is income tax free, while executor’s fees are subject to federal and state income taxes.

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