an estate can be difficult work for the designated party. The legally assigned representative of the deceased person’s estate is known as the executor. He or she has many responsibilities, including safekeeping estate assets and determining the validity of claims. After paying off claims, the executor needs to distribute assets according to the will.
Certain estates are so small or simple that an executor might not even need to probate the estate. But for others, probate can take months of detailed, grueling work. If you have been named as an executor, you may be wondering if you can get paid. The answer is “Yes,” but the amount can be difficult to calculate.
No Percentage of the Estate
In some states, the executor can claim a percentage of the estate. For example, in Florida, the executor is entitled to a particular percentage based on the estate’s size. If extraordinary service was required, the executor can request additional compensation.
Illinois takes a different approach. An executor cannot be paid a percentage of the estate. Instead, he or she is entitled to “reasonable compensation.” What is considered reasonable and how this amount is determined varies for each situation.
What Is a Reasonable Fee?
The Illinois Probate Act does not provide any details or guidance on how to calculate this reasonable compensation. Fortunately, Illinois courts have come up with different factors that go into determining whether or not a fee is reasonable. As an initial matter, the fee does not depend on the size of an estate. A small estate could be very complicated to administer, whereas a large one could be fairly easy. For this reason, Illinois courts do not allow an executor to use a set percentage.
Instead, a judge will analyze multiple factors, including the following:
How much time the executor spent administering the estate
Whether issues were complex or simple
The unique circumstances of the estate
With regard to the above factors, the amount of time the executor spends on the estate is the most useful.
Keep Careful Records
To obtain a fair fee, an executor needs to carefully document the work he or she performed. This entails recording how much time spent each day on probate matters, as well as the substance of the work. Waiting on hold for three hours for a phone call is less meaningful compared to three hours of tracking down estate assets and safekeeping them. It is important to be as detailed as possible when explaining the work performed.
Armed with this information, an executor can make a compelling argument for a fair fee, which might take the form of an hourly rate. In some courts, executors have been paid up to $50 an hour, but it depends on the precise nature of what they did. For example, trying to sell a home or dealing with renters is much more complicated than cleaning out someone’s car.
Because the estate pays the fee, some beneficiaries might object, since any fee reduces the amount that they will inherit. Ideally, an executor can reach an agreement with all of the beneficiaries on how much to charge. However, this is not always realistic, and the dispute might end up before a judge. If all of the involved parties can agree, however, then most judges will sign off on the agreement.
Contact a Wheaton Estate Planning Lawyer
Executors often need legal help and we are here to help them obtain the deserved compensation for their work. A. Traub & Associates has handled many probate cases and has fought to get executors fair compensation for their services. To schedule a free consultation, call one of our skilled DuPage County probate attorneys today at 630-426-0196.