Executor Compensation and Fee Calculator (PA)

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

Click to scroll to PA Fee Calculator.

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How Much Should an Executor be Paid in PA?

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

In determining executor fees, the state of Pennsylvania uses the commonly accepted principle of "reasonable and just" compensation, and explicitly states that compensation may be based on a graduated percentage of the estate value.

In practice, this means that the fee may be calculated as an hourly rate (if you keep good records), as a flat fee, or as a percentage of the estate.

While there are no legal statutes that specify exact fee calculations, case law makes liberal reference to the "Johnson Schedule" court decision [4 Fid.Rep.2d 6, 8 (O.C. Del. Co. 1983)]. This schedule sets the fee to 5% on the first $100K of gross estate value, 4% on the next $100K, 3% on the next $800K, 2% on the next $1M, 1.5% on the next $1.5M, 1% on the next $1M, and 0.5% of the next $1M.

A lot has happened since 1983, of course, and here is the Johnson Schedule loosely adjusted for inflation:

  • 5.0% on the first $300K
  • 4.0% on the next $300K
  • 3.0% on the next $2.4M
  • 2.0% on the next $3M
  • 1.5% on the next $3M
  • 1.0% on the next $3M
  • 0.5% on the next $3M

So, for example, a normal Pennsylvania estate worth $50K would yield $2.5K in executor fees, and one worth $600K would generate $27K in executor fees.

Assets that pass directly to named beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies or 401Ks, are generally not included in these calculations.

See Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 20 § 3537.

PA Compensation Calculator

EstateExec provides the following executor compensation estimator for PA estates, but please keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules for PA estates, and ultimately you must determine what would be reasonable for your particular circumstances. 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.

Below EstateExec provides two compensation approaches used in various incarnations throughout the United States: you can decide which, if either, is appropriate for you. The first uses a sliding percentage scale based on the total estate gross value (using the Johnson schedule adjusted for inflation); the second simply compensates the executor for the value of his or her time. See estimation methodology for details.

You can use this calculator now, but if you use EstateExec to help you track the settlement process, it will automatically calculate the inputs for you based on the estate and suggest those values in the fields below (you can create an estate for free).

An estimate using Estate Value

Compensation:  $ -

An estimate using Executor Hours

Compensation:  $ -
Average of both approaches:  $ -

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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