Once contentious estate claims have been determined, such as challenges to the validity of a will or wills variation claims, there is one final hurdle for the executor: the passing of accounts and determination of the executor’s fee.
The B.C. Trustee Act provides that a personal representative is entitled to remuneration to a maximum of five percent of the gross aggregate value, including capital and income, of all of the estate at the date of the passing. An executor is also entitled to a fee for annual care and management of the estate which must not exceed 0.4% of the average market value of the estate assets.
In determining the fee payable, the court will consider the magnitude of the trust or estate, the care and responsibility involved, the time occupied in administering the trust or estate, the skill and ability displayed, and finally, the success achieved in the result. The fee is to be determined based upon the reasonable value of the services rendered, subject to the five percent cap.
If the beneficiaries do not consent to the form of accounts and the fee sought by the executor, then the executor must seek the approval of the court.
If there have been contentious court proceedings relating to an estate, there may be lingering resentment or continued conflict when the matter proceeds to the final passing of accounts. This gives the parties one last thing to fight about.
This was the case in the recent decision of In the Matter of the Estate of Nehar Singh Litt, deceased 2020 BCSC 1921. In Litt, the executor was one of six beneficiaries, all of whom are siblings. The deceased had left each of his four daughters $150,000. The residue of the estate (the total estate was valued at $9 million) was left to his two sons. The daughters brought a wills variation claim, and the court divided the estate 60% in favor of the daughters, and 40% in favor of the sons. I previously wrote on this decision in a post found here. The judgment in the wills variation matter can be found here.
The executor sought to pass his accounts, and he sought total remuneration of $654,449.34 for both parents’ estates. The court observed that there was “considerable animus” between the executor and his siblings, and so it was not surprising that the executor was not able to obtain the consent of the beneficiaries to the fee that he sought and a hearing was required. The court heard evidence and reviewed each factor over a three day hearing. Although the executor displayed skill and ability in handling the estate, and achieved success overall in maximizing the estate’s assets and income over a period of three years, the court held that the remuneration sought was excessive, and reduced the executor’s fee to $400,000.