The issue of compensation for the personal representative of an estate can be tricky in the state of Washington. Yes, personal representatives can be paid for their time. Unlike other states such as California, there is no specific formula or chart embedded in the Washington state code that regulates personal representatives. Here’s what you need to know about being chosen as a personal representative and how personal representatives may be paid.
How Personal Representatives Get Paid in Washington
There are multiple ways that a personal representative can receive compensation for his time and effort in administering the estate of the deceased. Each has advantages and disadvantages that may be worth considering, both during estate planning and by the representative when called upon. These methods are:
- Being named in the will. Perhaps the simplest way to ensure a personal representative is paid is by naming him in the will, along with a dollar amount. Regardless of how much work the representative does, the amount named in the will is the compensation that he will receive. Alternatively, there may be an agreement to pay based on how long the service takes, with a final accounting (usually hourly) submitted at the end of the probate process.
- Letting the court decide. If the representative is not named in the will, or if he renounces the compensation stated in the will, the Revised Code of Washington allows for the representative to be compensated in a way that is “just and reasonable.” This method can also include payment for duties other than those required of a personal representative—for example, if the representative is also acting as an attorney or accountant for the estate.
- Renouncing payment entirely. It’s possible that the personal representative may refuse payment for his services. This option can actually be a good idea in some situations, particularly if the personal representative is also the only beneficiary of the estate. By choosing this method, however, there are potential tax benefits to the estate for paying compensation that can be missed out on, especially if the estate is larger.
Note that if the beneficiaries of the estate are unhappy with the amount of compensation paid to a representative, they may file an objection with the court.
If there is an objection, or the personal representative otherwise renounces payment stated in the will and asks the court to decide on a “just and reasonable” payment, the court will consider multiple factors to determine how much should be paid. These factors may include:
- How long it took to administer the estate
- The specific services provided to the estate
- How thoroughly the representative performed the services
The court will also consider the value of the estate and its assets, but this isn’t usually a primary consideration.
How Much Do Personal Representatives Really Make?
It can be tough to determine exactly how much a personal representative will be paid without knowing the details of the estate. As a “lay” representative, meaning someone who is not a professional, a common range of payment is between $15 to $50 per hour. If the personal representative has a full-time job, the court may use how much he earns as a guideline to how much should be awarded.
Get Legal Help With Your Estate
Estate and probate laws can be confusing, especially with the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. If you’ve been named as a personal representative and aren’t sure what your next steps should be, an estate planning and probate attorney can help you determine exactly what you need to do in order to close the estate.
The attorneys at The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny have decades of experience helping families manage their estate plans and get through the probate process. We’d be glad to help you and your family, too. Call us, or use the contact form linked on this page to arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue offices to discuss your legal situation today.