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My mom chose me as executor of her estate. Can I charge a fee?

Yes, you may likely be able to charge a fee in California for the executor work you perform on your mother’s estate. California does have legal requirements and limitations, however, so it is not an unfettered right to charge whatever you see fit.

As reported by MarketWatch, the California Probate Code, provides for a staggered fee structure.

Executor fee structure

You should be able to charge four percent or $4,000 on the first $100,000 of an estate’s value. For an estate greater than $100,000 in value, the percentage goes down. Between $100,001 and $200,000, you will earn another three percent of that piece of value, or $3000, for a total then of $7000 for a $200,000 estate.

On the next level of value of the estate if it has a value greater than $200,000, you may charge two percent, for any amount between $200,001 and $1 million. Thus, for a million-dollar estate, you may be able to charge $7000 plus two percent of $800,000, or $16,000, for a total of $23,000 for the work performed.

Transparency is key

On a practical note, it is highly recommended that you are very transparent and communicate well with your family members and other beneficiaries of your mother’s estate. Many people are unaware of the executor’s right to charge a fee. They may be even less aware of the burden that will be on you as you do the difficult work of an executor. Some call this job a thankless job, but for the fee that make it more palatable to suffer through.

It is important to consider making sure those beneficiaries know about the fee structure. Also, then, minds can differ on the value of the estate. Because the value of the estate is part of the calculation of your fee, you will want to be very clear on how you arrive at your conclusion about what that estate value is. Being secretive about accounting will be a potential issue later, should you charge a fee based on a higher than expected estate value.

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