In Missouri the personal representative is the person who is responsible for caring for the estate of a deceased person and distributing its assets. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 472.010(26). Other terms for the role of the personal representative include executor and administrator. While the personal representative is typically an individual such as the decedent’s surviving spouse, adult child, or other close relative, the personal representative can also be an entity. The job of the personal representative can be time-consuming and complicated, especially if the estate has substantial assets, unusual assets, or if there are other factors which add to the complexity of the process. Because of the responsibility and work involved in settling the estate, in Missouri personal representatives are not required to work for free. They are entitled to compensation that is reasonable for the work they must do during the estate administration process.
The work that personal representatives are required to do includes the tasks that are necessary to pay estate debt and expenses, distribute assets, and manage the estate during the process until the estate is closed.
- Inventory and appraise the assets. One of the first jobs of the personal representative is to inventory estate assets. The personal representative must figure out what assets are part of the decedent’s probate estate and their value. This information must be made available to the probate court as well as to interested parties in the form and manner required by Missouri law. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.233
- Pay estate debts and expenses. One question that many have about the estate administration process concerns debt payment. It is common for people to pass away leaving bills unpaid. Unpaid debt may include credit card bills, car notes, student loans, medical bills, utility bills, and federal or state taxes. Generally, unpaid bills do not go away when the debtor dies. It is the job of the personal representative to make sure those bills are paid out of the assets in the estate. Under Missouri law there is a very specific process that creditors must follow to be eligible to get paid. It is up to the personal representative to manage this process and ensure that only claims that are properly filed and that are legitimate are paid. The caveat to the requirement of outstanding debt being paid is if there is not enough money in the estate to pay those debts. The personal representative must review each claim and categorize them. Based on Missouri law, if there is not enough money to pay all claims, claims that are categorized as low priority will not be paid. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.153. This will be frustrating to creditors. However, creditors cannot go after the personal representative to seek payment from their personal assets.
- Distribute estate assets. The final major responsibility of the personal representative is to ensure that any assets that remain in the estate after debts and expenses are paid are properly distributed. If the decedent left a will, it will give the personal representative instructions on who should get the various assets in the estate. If there is not a will, then Missouri’s law of intestate succession directs asset distribution.
Executor Compensation in Missouri
Just like asset distribution, the compensation to which a personal representative is entitled is based on either what the will directs or Missouri law. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 473.153. If the will gives instructions on compensation for the personal representative or executor, then that is what the probate court must follow, unless the personal representative chose to renunciate the will’s compensation plan.
If there is no will or the personal presentative rejected the plan in the will, then the Missouri law provides a guideline that is based on the value of the assets in the estate. The value of the assets includes the value of the personal property administered as well as the proceeds of all real property sold under order of the court as follows:
- 5% on the first $5,000
- 4% on the next $20,000
- 3% on the next $75,000
- 2 ¾% on the next $300,000
- 2 ½% on the next $600,000
- 2% on all over $1,000,000
Note that the percentages listed above are the statutory minimum compensation to which the personal representative is entitled. The personal representative has the right to petition the court and request more money. Based on the amount of work that that personal representative actually performed, the court may determine that it would be reasonable to pay the personal representative a higher amount of compensation.