Embarking on estate planning inevitably brings up numerous questions, one of which pertains to the compensation of the personal representative. Also known as an executor, a personal representative plays a pivotal role in settling and distributing the estate. But what is a fair payment for their services? In this blog, we will dissect the roles, responsibilities, and remuneration associated with being a personal representative.

Understanding the Role of a Personal Representative:

Before delving into compensation, it’s crucial to comprehend what a personal representative does. As outlined in the Code of the District of Columbia, their primary duty is to:

“Settle and distribute the estate of the decedent in accordance with the terms of the will or laws relating to intestacy… as expeditiously and efficiently as is prudent and consistent with the best interests of the persons interested in the estate.”

In simpler terms, the personal representative is entrusted with gathering the assets of the deceased and ensuring they are distributed as per the will’s instructions, all while acting in the estate’s best interests.

Compensation Schemes Across States:

Personal representative compensation varies significantly across the United States, with three predominant schemes in place:

  • Reasonable Compensation (35 states): This is a subjective measure, often equating to the amount of time and effort invested in estate administration.
  • Percentage Formula of the Estate (11 states): This involves a sliding scale based on the estate’s value.
  • Flat Percentage of the Estate (4 states): This model applies a fixed percentage (usually between 2-5%) to the entire estate value.
  • Flat Percentage and Sliding Scale Models: In states that follow the flat percentage model, a personal representative could earn $20,000 to $50,000 for administering a $1 million estate. Meanwhile, the sliding scale model, exemplified by New York’s compensation formula, would yield a personal representative $34,000 for an estate of the same value.

The Reasonable Compensation Model:

The most widespread scheme, reasonable compensation, demands a more nuanced approach. Here, the payment reflects the time and effort expended in managing the estate. The complexity of the estate, from straightforward bank accounts to complex, international investments, plays a significant role in determining what is deemed “reasonable.”

A Practical Tip for Personal Representatives:

If you find yourself in the role of a personal representative, meticulously record the time you dedicate to estate administration. This practice ensures transparency and helps justify your compensation, aligning with the estate’s best interests.

Avoiding Pitfalls:

It’s imperative for personal representatives to adhere strictly to the terms of the will, resisting any temptation to distribute assets unfairly. Violating these terms not only breaches trust but can also result in legal consequences.


Determining fair compensation for a personal representative is a nuanced process, influenced by the estate’s complexity, the applicable legal framework, and the amount of time invested in administration. By understanding the role’s responsibilities and maintaining a transparent record of time spent, personal representatives can ensure they are fairly compensated while upholding the estate’s best interests. If you are navigating through estate planning and need guidance on personal representative compensation or any other aspect, feel free to reach out. Our experts are here to assist you in making informed and fair decisions for all parties involved.