California law allows an executor of an estate to receive compensation for his work on the estate. Specifically, the California Probate Code grants a certain percentage of the total assets of the estate to an executor. The percentage an executor may take depends on the total amount of the assets in the estate.
Calculating the Value of the Estate
According to attorney Stephen C. Gruber, the value of the estate is based on the inventory taken by the executor as part of his duties. Debts are not included in the value of the estate. For example, if the estate includes a house worth $500,000 but also has a mortgage on the house of $250,000, the house is still valued at $500,000 for the purposes of calculating the executor's monetary compensation.
For estates valued at less than $100,000, the statutory fee the executor may claim is 4 percent of the value, according to attorney Stephen C. Gruber. For example, if the estate is worth $50,000, the executor may receive $2,500 for her services, since $2,500 is 4 percent of $50,000.
Estates valued at more than $100,000 but less than $25 million allow the executor to take a certain percentage based on the value of the estate, which changes depending on the estate's size. For instance, the executor may receive 4 percent of the first $100,000 of the estate, plus 3 percent of the next $100,000. On top of this amount, the executor may receive 2 percent of the next $800,000 in the estate, 1 percent of the next $9 million, and 1/2 percent of the amount between $9 and $25 million, according to the California Probate Code.
Large and Complex Estates
The California Probate Code does not set a percentage for the executor to receive if the total value of the estate is greater than $25 million. In these cases, the court will set a reasonable fee for the executor, according to the California Probate Code. Likewise, if the estate is smaller than $25 million but is particularly complex, the probate court may set a larger fee than that calculated by the California Probate Code. The fee may be a percentage of the estate, or it may be a flat or hourly rate.
The fee for an attorney who assists the executor in probating the estate is calculated according to the same percentages as the fee for an executor. For instance, if an attorney and executor both work on probating an estate worth $100,000, the executor receives $4,000 from the estate and the attorney also receives $4,000, according to attorney Stephen C. Gruber. The probate court sets an attorney's fee for large or complex estates in the same manner it sets an executor's fee in these cases.
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