| Read Time: 3 minutes | Probate

When someone dies, those left behind are responsible for managing the estate by paying off debts and distributing assets. In New York, the Surrogate Court generally appoints a personal representative—either an executor or administrator—to manage the estate. Once the representative finishes their work, the court typically orders the estate to pay administrator or executor fees. New York law sets how much the court may award. Read on if you want to learn about the administrator or executor of an estate’s fees in New York. If you have lost a loved one or are interested in planning your estate, the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. is available to help. We focus on estate planning, we have many years of experience, and we know how to strategically guide clients through this process.

What Is an Executor?

When someone creates a will before they die, they often name an executor. If the executor is not willing and able to serve, if a testator dies without a will, or if the testator fails to name an executor in their will—the court may appoint an administrator instead.

As estate representatives, executors and administrators fill the same role and serve as estate fiduciaries. More than one person may be appointed, but an estate does not typically have both.

How Do You Become an Estate Representative?

If a will names you as executor, you can request the Surrogate Court appoint you by asking it to grant you “letters testamentary.” To become an administrator, you request the court issue you “letters of administration.” The court must determine whether you are eligible to serve before it appoints you. 


A court may decline to appoint a representative if they are:

  • Under 18,
  • Legally incompetent,
  • A non-citizen who is not a New York resident unless at least one resident co-fiduciary is appointed,
  • Unfit, or
  • Ineligible. 

Someone may be unfit if they:

  • Have a history of substance abuse,
  • Are dishonest,
  • Fail to adequately plan for the future, or
  • Do not understand the role.

They may also be ineligible if they cannot read and write in English or if they have been convicted of a crime indicating a lack of trustworthiness, such as:

  • Embezzlement,
  • Misappropriation of funds, or
  • Breach of fiduciary duty.

These rules apply to executors and administrators alike.


Generally, the court appoints the person named in a will as the estate’s executor unless they are ineligible or not willing and able to serve. The law establishes appointment preferences for administrators, favoring, in order, the decedent’s:

  • Surviving spouse,
  • Children,
  • Grandchildren,
  • Parents, or
  • Siblings.

The court next prefers whoever has the largest interest in the estate or, after them, anyone with an interest in the estate. With permission from interested parties, however, almost anyone can ask to serve.

Before the court officially appoints you, it generally requires you to take an oath promising to faithfully and honestly discharge your duties. It may also request you pay a bond

What Do Estate Representatives Do?

The New York State executor requirements and New York State administrator requirements include:

  • Opening the estate,
  • Inventorying the estate’s assets and liabilities,
  • Identifying interested parties,
  • Notifying interested parties about the estate action,
  • Satisfying legitimate debts, 
  • Distributing estate assets, and
  • Closing the estate.

The executor is also responsible for bringing the will to court and participating in the probate process to determine the will’s validity. 

What Fees Do Estate Representatives Receive in New York?

At the end of estate administration, the representative can request New York executor fees or administrator fees. If granted, these fees come out of estate funds. Generally, the representative is entitled to reimbursement for the actual costs incurred and a commission, with the rate depending on the size of the estate:

  • 5% for estates valued at $100,000 or less,
  • 4% for estates valued at $200,000 or less,
  • 3% for estates valued at $700,000 or less,
  • 2.5% for estates valued at $4,000,000 or less, and
  • 2% for estates valued at $5,000,000 or less.

If there are multiple representatives, the court may generally only award commissions to two of them. However, the court may apportion fees differently if the will leaves specific instructions.

You may also receive compensation if you are the executor of a will on file with the court and participate in estate administration in good faith, even if the will is not probated. In that case, you may generally receive a fee in an amount the court determines is reasonable with respect to the work you completed and the expenses you incurred. 

Working with the Surrogate Court

As an executor or administrator, you will work closely with a New York Surrogate Court. Having an experienced probate lawyer to guide you through this process can help minimize stress and maximize what you receive. Contact us today if you are interested in learning more.


Author Photo

Andrew Lamkin is principal in the law firm of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C., where he focuses his practice in the areas of elder law, estate planning and special needs planning, including Wills and Trusts, Medicaid planning, estate administration and residential real estate transactions. He is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.

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