Executor Compensation and Fee Calculator (CA)

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If the will does not specify how executor compensation should be calculated, CA estates must follow state compensation rules.

Click to scroll to CA Fee Calculator.

EstateExec Executor Compensation Video

How Much Should an Executor be Paid in CA?

In California, the estate executor is known as the "personal representative".

For CA estates, compensation specified by the will can only be changed if the court grants an executor's petition to be relieved of those provisions ... even agreement among the affected parties is not enough by itself to increase or decrease that amount.

If compensation details are not addressed by the will (or relief from those terms is granted by the court), then California law determines compensation based on the gross value of the estate, without considering any debts or obligations, but including any asset valuation realized due to actual asset sales, as well as any other estate receipts such as income generated by the estate during the probate process:

  • 4.0% on the first $100K
  • 3.0% on the next $100K
  • 2.0% on the next $800K
  • 1.0% on the next $9M
  • 0.5% on the next $15M
  • A reasonable amount, as determined by the court, for all amounts >$25M

So, for example, a California estate with a qualified gross value of $50K would yield $2K in executor fees, and one worth $1M would generate $23K in executor fees.

Note that assets with named beneficiaries (such as IRAs) are also not included in these calculations.

If there are 2 or more executors, the fee should be divided among the executors either according to services rendered, or as agreed among the executors.

Finally, the court can allow additional compensation for "extraordinary" services, such as overseeing the sale or lease of real estate, running a business, conducting litigation, preparing tax returns yourself, handling tax audits, and so on (see California Rules of Court 7.703).

See California Probate Code, §§ 10800-10805.

CA Compensation Calculator

EstateExec provides the following executor compensation estimator for CA estates, but please keep in mind that circumstances may vary, and that there may be special situations addressed by local custom or law. By using this estimator, you acknowledge that EstateExec provides any results as informational input only, not as legal advice, and cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies for, or misunderstandings about, any given estate.

You can use this calculator now, but if you use EstateExec to help you track the settlement process, it will automatically sum the asset values at death, calculate any valuation changes due to sales, and suggest the result in the Estate Gross Value field below (you can create an estate for free).

Compensation:  $ -

Calculator Instructions

To calculate CA executor compensation, follow these steps:

  1. Enter gross value of estate assets (as modified by any asset sale price changes)
  2. Enter additional receipts (such as income generated by the estate)
  3. Enter the value of any extraordinary services (such as selling a house)
  4. Enter the number of executors
  5. Press the Calculate Now button

If you are using EstateExec, it will automatically calculate and populate the above fields from the contents of your estate, which you can override if desired.

See also Compensation for general remarks on executor compensation.

Executor Compensation Considerations

Timing: Generally, any executor compensation is paid during the final stages of estate distribution, as one of the last things the executor does. Be careful in situations in which there is not enough to pay yourself and all other outstanding debts, as this may expose you to legal issues. However, in most states, executor compensation has precedence over almost all other debts (for example, in NY, only funeral expenses have a higher precedence).

Communication: You may wish to discuss your compensation with the other heirs early during the process, so they don't end up surprised and unhappy when they notice their shares are somewhat less than expected. You may also want to leave the door open to modify your planned compensation as the process unfolds and you determine how much or how little work will actually be required on your part.

Optional: Keep in mind that collecting executor fees is optional. Even if the will specifies compensation, or if state laws support specific fees, the executor can choose to forego that compensation, and many do. That being said, serving as an executor is A LOT of work, and there's a reason that state laws support such compensation.

Tax Optimization: One reason an executor might choose to forego explicit compensation is that executor compensation is taxable, while inheritances are generally not taxable. Consequently, if the entire estate (or a large portion of it) is going to be inherited by the executor, you may end up with more after-tax value if you forego executor compensation.

Trusts: Note that trustee compensation for managing a trust is handled differently than that of executor compensation for settling an estate (see Trustee Compensation).

Expense Reimbursement: In addition to compensation for his or her services, an executor is also entitled to reimbursement from estate proceeds for legitimate and reasonable estate administration costs, such as death certificate copies, notarization of documents, the EstateExec licensing fee, and even travel costs strictly associated with managing the estate. Once you have established an estate banking account, you can often pay for these costs directly from that account, so that no reimbursement is necessary, but you should keep good records in case you later have to justify your expenditures to the IRS or to estate heirs. Executor expenses can be reimbursed when desired, although certain probate proceedings may require prior approval. While executor expenses are generally not considered when calculating executor compensation (i.e., executor fees), if the executor incurs substantial costs paying for services that would normally be directly handled by an executor, a probate judge may sometimes require that the default executor fee be reduced accordingly.

Additional Information

See also the EstateExec Complete Executor Guide.

In case you're interested, authoritative details about executor compensation in other states can be found here:

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