What Monetary Percentage Does an Executor of a Will Get in California?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

What Monetary Percentage Does an Executor of a Will Get in California?

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Serving as executor of someone's estate is a time-consuming job that often lasts for more than a year. Most states, including California, allow the person in this role to receive compensation for their hard work. California has a fee schedule set by law that dictates these payments, which rises in percentages based on the value of the deceased's assets. The executor is responsible for winding up the deceased person's financial affairs. Their responsibilities include starting the probate case, distributing assets, and paying creditors in accordance with the will.

Woman holding paperwork and looking at laptop

Compensation Schedule

Executor compensation in California is based on a percentage of the estate's value. Under California's probate code, the person in this role is currently entitled to compensation as follows:

  • 4 percent of the first $100,000 of the estate's value
  • 3 percent of the next $100,000 of the estate's value
  • 2 percent of the next $800,0000 of the estate's value
  • 1 percent of the next $9 million of the estate's value
  • 0.05 percent of the next $15 million of the estate's value

If the total value exceeds $15 million, the court decides upon a reasonable amount of pay.

For purposes of calculating the appropriate fee amount, the court determines this total value based on the value of all property in the asset inventory. The calculation does not include encumbrances such as mortgages.

Compensation Set by Will

Typically, California's probate fee schedule dictates how much the executor receives as compensation. However, sometimes the deceased person's will states how much they want to pay this person.

In this case, the document typically controls, and the person managing the assets receives only the amount provided for by the will. This might occur if the deceased wanted greater control over the distribution of their assets, among other reasons.

Additional Compensation

Sometimes the administration of someone's affairs is exceptionally difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. In these cases, the executor can request compensation that exceeds that allowed in the fee schedule for "extraordinary services." The court has discretion to determine whether the individual has provided extraordinary services. Some examples of this recognized by the California Probate Rules of Court are preparing tax returns, selling or foreclosing property, managing the deceased person's business, and handling audits or lawsuits.

When the will sets compensation, the executor can also request that the court allow for more compensation. The court grants this request if it determines that additional compensation is in the best interests of the estate and people with an interest in it.

Attorney's Fees

In many cases, the executor retains an attorney to help them administer the distribution and management of assets, and the estate pays the attorney's fees. In California, the same fee schedule that applies to executor compensation applies to attorney compensation.

Both individuals are entitled to the amount set by the schedule; they do not have to split it. For example, for an estate worth $100,000, they attorney would be entitled to $4,000, and the other would be entitled to a separate $4,000.

It is natural for one to feel overwhelmed when put in charge of managing someone's assets. California's fee schedule is one of the most complex in the country, but understanding the process by which an executor's pay is determined will help to simplify at least one portion of this difficult legal process.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.