A Maryland executor – known in state law as a personal representative – must be age 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.
Personal Representative Fees
The Maryland statutes say that the maximum personal representative fee is 9 percent of the estate's value if the estate is worth $20,000 or less. That would equal $900 on a $10,000 estate. The fee is $1,800 for estates greater than $20,000, plus 3.6 percent of the estate's value over $20,000. The probate court can set a lower fee if it feels that's appropriate, which might be the case when the court aggregates or combines the personal representative's fee with the lawyer's fees. The executor can appeal to the circuit court if she objects to the lesser fee.
Wills and Fees
A decedent can write the executor's fee into his will as well. If the fee is higher than that provided for in the statutes, the personal representative would nonetheless receive the greater 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 charging 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 he's honoring his loved one by settling the estate and that no compensation is necessary.
The Executor's Job
If the deceased owed taxes, the executor must use the estate funds to pay them. She also pays any taxes the estate owes on income earned during probate, 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. The executor manages the property, paying insurance and property taxes on real estate, for as long as the estate remains open. When the estate's debts are paid off, the executor passes the remaining assets to the heirs.
An Executor's Fiduciary Duty
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 others. 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.
Read More: Executor & Beneficiary Rights to an Estate
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.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.