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Compensation for Executor in MA

I've been advised by relatives that under Massachusetts law, the executor of a will is entitled to 1/3(one-third) of the estates assets as a form of compensation. However, I cannot find the written anywhere as to what an executor is entitled to. My family has a dispute over this issue. Can anyone point me in the right direction as to the entitlement of an executor to some form a payment for the duties performed? Thank you.

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No.  The short answer to the question is that there is no Massachusetts law that spells out a set amount or percentage of the estate for fiduciary compensation.  Typically the document (will or trust) will control how much the fiduciary (Personal representative or Executor) is entitled to collect for her services.  If the document is silent or vague, then the parties should be guided by the also vague Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 206, Section 16:


[a]n executor, administrator, guardian, conservator or trustee shall be allowed his reasonable expenses, costs and counsel fees incurred in the execution of his trust, and shall have such compensation for services as the court may allow.  (The recently adopted Massachusetts Probate Code offers the same type of guidance; "A personal representative is entitled to reasonable compensation for services.")


There is some case law on this subject, typically dealing with the issue of what attorneys can charge when acting as fiduciaries.  In n McMahon v. Krapf, 323 Mass. 118 (1948), the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts set out some factors to be considered, including the size of the estate, time spent working on the estate, and the skill and ability of the fiduciary.  In Corcoran v. Thomas, 6 Mass. App. Ct. 1990 (1978), an appellate court held that “[t]he only rule of law is that the fiduciary is to receive just and reasonable compensation for all services performed in his trust.”


Ultimately, if the document is silent and the beneficiaries cannot agree with the fiduciary on just compensation, then the probate court judge will have to decide what "reasonable" means.  For more information or to post a question, visit our Massachusetts Estate Planning Discussion Forum.


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