Calculating an Executor’s Commissions

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the commissions that may be paid to the executor of an estate. Clients frequently ask me if they should specify in their Will the total commission that should be paid  to the executor or if it is better to have the commissions determined by the statute.   To avoid confusion and unforeseen consequences, I believe it is best to have commissions determined in accordance with the Surrogates Court Procedure Act §2307 (the “SCPA”) which sets the commission as a percentage of the value of the probate estate.

The value of non-probate assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance, jointly held property, annuities and/or property held in trust are not considered when calculating  commissions. The value of specific assets that are passed directly to a beneficiary are also ignored when calculating commissions under the SCPA.  As a result, administering a large estate does not necessarily translate into a large commission for the executor. That being said, if an executor is directed to liquidate a decedent’s assets and to distribute cash in the amount of $250,000, under the SCPA the executor is entitled to commissions in the amount of $11,000.

Linda M. Toga of The Law Offices of Linda M. Toga, P.C. is an East Setauket, New York attorney with a general law practice focusing on estate planning, real estate, marital planning, small business services and litigation.