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Monday, April 11, 2011

Is the executor supposed to use his fee to pay estate expenses?

On an estate I was involved in a few years ago, a dispute blew up between the beneficiaries and the executor over who was to pay for the five-star lunch that was provided to funeral attendees. The executor paid for it from estate funds. The beneficiaries objected, stating that since the executor was being paid an executor's fee, that fee was supposed to be used to buy the lunch.

A similar question arose on a different estate more recently. The executor sold the deceased's home and paid the realtor with estate funds. Again a dispute arose. The beneficiaries believed that the executor's fee was supposed to cover the realtor's commission.

Are these examples of things that an executor should pay for with his or her executor's fee?

No. Both of these executors did exactly what they were supposed to do. The executor's fee is a wage for the work, time, responsibility and effort of the executor. It is not meant to be a fund for paying estate expenses. It's money that the executor is intended to use as he pleases for his personal use.

There are always expenses on an estate. Some of the largest ones are the funeral, realtor's commission, the deceased's mortgage, probate fees, lawyer's fees and taxes. Then of course there are dozens of smaller ones (household bills, deceased's credit cards, cost of getting the house cleaned, obituary etc). All of these expenses are meant to be paid out of the estate.

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