An executor, sometimes known as a personal representative, is the person named in a will to carry out the final wishes of the will maker, known as the testator. An executor is entitled to a fee as compensation for the work involved in gathering and distributing the estate’s assets, paying taxes and other debts and making a final accounting to the probate court. In Missouri, how much a person earns as the executor of a will depends on the will’s instructions and Missouri probate law.
In Missouri, an executor is entitled to a fee for his services. A testator can set forth the executor’s fee in his will or direct the executor to serve without a fee. The namd executor may refuse to serve if he so chooses. If the will is silent on the matter of fee payment or the executor wants more money than the testator offered, Missouri probate law provides the formula for paying the executor.
Under Missouri probate law, an executor is paid according to the probate value of an estate. The executor can receive a minimum of 5 percent of the first $5,000 of probate value, 4 percent of the next $20,000, 3 percent of the next $75,000, 2.75 percent of the next $300,000, 2.5 percent of the next $600,000 and 2 percent of any balance over that first $1 million. For example, the executor of a $2 million probate estate would be entitled to at least $58,550. If the will named two or more executors, they share the total fee, which can’t be more than double the minimum for one representative.
An attorney doing estate work is entitled to the same minimum fee schedule, but if the executor is also the estate’s attorney, he can’t double-dip. The executor may hire and pay estate accountants and tax specialists. If the executor himself is an accountant or tax specialist and does the estate’s tax returns, he doesn’t get an extra fee unless the will, or court, approves it.
An executor, or personal representative, can ask the court for compensation above the amount provided by law if he feels his services justify it. The legal standard in Missouri probate law is “reasonable and adequate,” unlike other states that may require "extraordinary" services to qualify. In effect, this means the executor may be given additional compensation if the Missouri probate judge agrees he deserves it.
Settling an estate can take years, but the executor cannot receive partial payments for his services unless the probate judge sets a payment schedule. The fee is based on the probate value of the estate, so property that passes outside probate doesn’t count. This can be a substantial sum, including jointly held property, life insurance proceeds and family assets exempt from probate. If the personal representative fails in his duties, Missouri law permits the court to deny him compensation or reduce the amount he receives.