A Maryland executor – known in state law as a personal representative – must be 18 or older and of sound mind. If she's not the decedent's spouse or a close relative, she must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and can't be a judge or clerk of the court. An executor is entitled to a fee for her work. The rules for fees are found in Section 7-601 of the state Estates and Trusts statutes.
Maryland law allows executors to claim a fee of 9 percent of the estate's value. For estates of greater than $20,000, the executor may claim an additional 3.6 percent of the value over $20,000 as compensation for their role in settling the estate.
Personal Representative Fees
The Maryland statutes say that if the estate is worth $20,000 or less, the maximum personal representative fee is 9 percent of the estate's value. That would equal $900 on a $10,000 estate, for instance. For estates greater than $20,000, the fee is $1,800, plus 3.6 percent of the estate value over $20,000. The probate court can set a lower fee if it feels that's appropriate. If the executor objects to the lower fee, she can appeal to the circuit court.
Wills and Fees
The decedent can write the executor's fee into his will. If the fee is higher than the statutes, the personal representative gets the higher fee. If the probate judge thinks the amount in the will is unreasonably low, the court can raise it. A personal representative can always choose to take a lower fee than the will or the statutes provide. She can also choose to do the work without a fee. In some cases, a family member who is both a beneficiary and the personal representative will forego any executor fees because the fee would be considered taxable income. In other cases, the personal representative may simply feel they are honoring their loved one by settling the estate, and that no compensation is needed.
The Executor's Job
If the deceased owed taxes, the executor has to use the estate funds to pay them. She also pays any taxes the estate owes, separate from the deceased. The executor deals with the probate court, pays funeral expenses and pays or settles any claims creditors make on the estate. As long as the estate lasts, the executor manages the property, paying insurance and property taxes on real estate, for instance. When the estate's debts are paid off, the executor passes the remaining assets to the heirs.
Anyone who accepts the job of personal representative has a fiduciary duty to place the interests of the beneficiaries over her own. Even if she is one of the beneficiaries, she can't favor herself over the other heirs. Managing estate property to enrich herself, for example, would be illegal. The executor must maintain the highest standard of care when managing the property; being honest but negligent can leave her legally liable.