Tennessee State Law on Payment to Estate Executors

By Jennifer F. Bender

Estate executors perform essential tasks in administering a decedent's estate. The administration process includes identifying heirs, completing an inventory of the estate, distributing the estate and preparing annual accounting statements to the court. This process can become complex if disputes arise among heirs, creditors or debtors of the estate. Tennessee state law compensates estate executors based on a reasonable fee as decided by the court.


In Tennessee, the estate executor files a petition with the court to receive payment for his duties. The petition includes a description of the assets of the estate along with a description of the services rendered. The estate executor requests an amount of compensation and then verifies that a copy of the petition was sent to all interested parties. The amount of compensation is based on the value of the estate and services provided by the estate executor.


The probate court in Tennessee presiding over the estate determines the fee for the estate executor. The court decides on an amount which it deems fair, reasonable and appropriate given all the circumstances involved in settling the estate. These factors include the size of the estate, involvement of estate executor in settling the estate and relationship of estate executor to the decedent. The court will also take into consideration any complex litigation involved in the settlement of the estate. If the testator indicates in his will how much the executor should be paid, the court will take this into account, but must set the fee in accordance with state statute.

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Reasonable Fees

In determining the reasonable fees presented to estate executors, Tennessee courts take into account the value of the decedent’s gross estate. If the value of the estate is under $50,000 a minimum fee of $500 to the estate executor is considered reasonable. The percentage of the estate executor's fee decreases as the value of the estate increases. For example, for an estate valued at around $1,000,000, the estate executor would receive .5 to 1 percent of the estate's value. For an estate over $1,000,000, the estate executor would receive .25 to .50 percent.

Extraordinary Services

Tennessee courts also take into account extraordinary services when determining fees for an estate executor. Extraordinary services can prolong the administration of an estate and consume more of an estate executor's time. Examples of extraordinary services include sales or mortgages of real or personal property and lengthy contested litigation involving claims against the estate. Complex tax returns or audits by any federal or state agencies can take up more of an executor's time. Finally, the managing or selling of the decedent's business can be a consuming process. Tennessee courts value this extra time and compensate estate executors accordingly.

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