Commissions for Executors

Q & A from the Attorneys at Maselli Warren, P.C.:

Q: I was named as the Executor of my late mother’s will. Can Executors of a Pennsylvania Decedent’s Estate take a commission? John L.

A: John, the short answer is yes, but read on for the far more interesting long answer!

PA is one of the few states that does not publish a Court-approved fee schedule for commissions taken by executors. For example, New Jersey’s executor fee is set by statute. It is 5% of the first $200,000 of assets, 3.5% of the next $800,000 and 2% on anything in excess of $1 million. However, in PA, courts and attorneys have relied on a fee schedule mentioned in a 1983 court opinion called the matter of Johnson’s Estate. Judge Wood in the Johnson case said that a “Pennsylvania Attorney General Fee Schedule” existed and established a graduated scale of fees the Attorney General would deem is reasonable. Interestingly, the PA Attorney General has denied ever since the 1983 Johnson opinion that any “Attorney General Approved” fee schedule exists!

The legend of the Johnson opinion has continued to grow. While it is quite a complicated opinion and schedule, judges and lawyers use it as a guidepost in evaluating fees paid to fiduciaries. Much will depend on the amount of work put in, as well as the size of the estate. A small estate which requires significant work could entitle the executor to more fees than a large estate with very little work to administer. The final word seems to be that commissions are determined not by a schedule, but by taking into account an array of factors unique to each case. We always tell our clients who serve as executors, administrators and trustees to keep accurate and contemporaneous time and expense records to support their bid for commissions.

Maselli Warren, P.C. not only prepares Wills, Trusts, Medical Directives and Power of Attorneys, we assist many clients through the often confusing steps of estate administration.