An executor, commonly referred to as the personal representative, is responsible for settling the estate of a deceased person. Oftentimes the personal representative is the spouse, adult child, sibling, or other close relative of the decedent. While losing a loved one is difficult, for a close family member serving as the personal representative may feel like an honor or duty. What may come as a surprise to some is that personal representatives are entitled to receive compensation for the work they perform. The compensation is often referred to as their commission. As an experienced Maine executor commission lawyer will explain, the amount of compensation depends on several factors, but is generally based on the amount of time and work involved.
Maine Personal Representative Duties and Responsibilities
The work of the personal representative can be quite time-consuming and stressful. Generally, it will take about 9 to 18 months to settle an estate in Maine. During that time, the personal representative must inventory estate assets, pay estate debts and expenses, and distribute assets. While most of the tasks that the personal representative will be required to undertake are routine, they do require an understanding of the Maine Probate Code, attention to detail, and excellent record-keeping.
In some instances, however, the work of the personal representative is far from routine. They must navigate difficult family dynamics. They may even have to deal with probate disputes that lead to litigation such as will contests or contested creditor claims. Thus, it makes sense that personal representatives are paid for the work that they do—even if it is for a loved one.
Maine Executor Compensation
In order to receive payment, the personal representative must petition the Probate Court that has jurisdiction over the matter. The amount of compensation to which the personal representative is entitled depends on what governs the requested compensation. The personal representative’s compensation may be defined by the decedent’s will, a contract between the decedent and the personal representative, or by Maine’s Probate Code.
Will. The first place that the court will look to determine the amount of the compensation to which the personal representative is entitled is the decedent’s will. 18-A ME Rev Stat § 3-719 . In a will, typically the testator will nominate who they wish to serve as personal representative as well as the amount of fee the personal representative is to receive. If that is the case, then the terms in the will govern.
However, as an experienced Maine executor commission lawyer will explain, the personal representative has the right to renounce the compensation stated in the will by submitting a written renunciation with the court prior to qualifying. If the personal representative renounces the will-based compensation, they will be entitled to statutory reasonable compensation.
Contract. The personal representative and the testator can make a contract that states what the personal representative’s compensation will be.
Statute. As an experienced executor commission attorney in Maine will explain, if the will is silent, if there is no contract, or if there is no will, then Maine’s Probate Code controls. The statute provides that the personal representative is entitled to “reasonable compensation.” 18-A ME Rev Stat § 3-719. However, the statute does not define “reasonable compensation.” Commonly, courts have approved compensation that takes into consideration the following factors:
- Nature of the work involved. The court will consider the amount of time that personal representative spent, the difficulty of the work involved, and the level of skill required.
- Compensation routinely charged. The court will consider the amount of compensation that is typically paid for settling an estate in the same or similar community that required a similar amount of work.
- Size and complexity of the estate. The court will consider the size and complexity of estate, as larger, more complex estates typically require more time and expertise.
- Time limitations. The court will consider whether there were any time limitations that the personal representative had to work under.
- Experience and capabilities of the personal representative. The court will consider the experience and capabilities of the personal representative. A more experienced personal representative with a high skill level will be able to perform more tasks with greater efficiency.
When it comes to compensation based on the statutory “reasonable” standard, it is critical that the personal representative keep detailed records of the time spent, tasks completed, and results. An experienced executor commission attorney serving Maine can help with the recordkeeping.