In Oklahoma, when someone passes away, a personal representative (also called an executor or administrator) is appointed by the District Court (probate court) to perform the estate administration tasks. The goal of the estate administration process is to settle the outstanding business of the decedent’s estate. The main tasks include:
- Inventorying and appraising the assets. 58 OK Stat § 58281
- Pay claims and expenses. 58 OK Stat § 6335
- Submit final accounting. 58 OK Stat § 58-541
- Distribute estate assets. 84 OK Stat § 84-213
Because of the time and work that goes into completing these tasks, the personal representative is entitled to receive reasonable compensation. The amount of compensation is based on either what is directed in the decedent’s will or what is directed by statute.
The Oklahoma “Fees and Commission” statue provides a personal representative is entitled to compensation that is based on the value of the property in the estate that they had to manage as follows:
- For the $1,000: 5%
- For the next $5,000: 4%
- For all amounts above $6000: 2.5%
Judiciary discretion. The general framework for compensation assumes that the personal representative does the ordinary amount of work that is expected of a personal representative. However, the probate judge has the discretion to deviate from the standard amount if the situation warrants them to do so.
If the personal representative performs “extraordinary services,” the court can authorize payment of additional compensation. While the statute does not define extraordinary services, activities that are outside the norm include:
- Litigation. If the estate is involved in any type of litigation, whether it is initiated by the personal representative on behalf the estate or the personal representative is required to defend the estate, there is likely going to be additional work for the personal representative. Types of litigation that can occur during the estate administration process includes will contest, will construction, a contested claim, or a spouse’s elective share proceeding.
- Tax issues. Addressing disputed tax issues, preparing tax returns, or handling delinquent real estate taxes, would require additional work and may be deemed an extraordinary service.
- Carrying on of the decedent’s business. If it is necessary for the good the estate to continue to run the decedent’s business until it can be properly closed, sold, or handed over to the decedent’s successor, this would be considered an extraordinary service.
- Difficult beneficiaries, heirs, or family members. If an interested party makes it difficult for the personal representative to do their job, causing delays and extra work, the court might deem the additional work to be an extraordinary service.
Note that the amount of additional compensation cannot exceed the based amount of commission that the personal representative is entitled to based on the value of the estate. For example, if the personal representative commission is $5000, the most they would be entitled to for extraordinary services is another $5000.
In addition, the court can decide to authorize less than the general amount. One reason they might do so is if the personal representative only served for part of the administration process.
Multiple personal representatives. Some estates have more than one personal representative. Regardless of the number of personal representatives, only one fee is allowed. For example, if the fee is $5000, that amount would be divided among the personal representatives. The court will determine how it should be divided unless the personal representatives make an agreement on their own as to how to divide it.
Some testators will include a provision about personal representative commission in their wills. If so, that is the amount to which the personal representative is entitled. The personal representative can choose to renounce what is provided for it the will and opt for the statutory compensation instead. Or, the personal representative can choose to not accept any compensation at all. The renunciation of the will-based compensation must be submitted to the court in writing.