Executor/Trustees Fees

Trustees FeesZadra v Cortese 2016 BCSC 390 dealt with a passing of executor’s accounts before a registrar to determine the amount of executor/trustees fees for handling a complex estate for ten years but delegating most of the work to professionals.

The value of the estate increased from $800,000 to $4.8 million over this time due to the rise in the real estate market.

The registrar allowed fees of %3 of the gross estate, plus %3 of the estate’s income and a management fee of $12,000.

The executor had pre- taken fees of $70,000 but was not admonished for it as it was done in the belief that the executor was entitled to it.

The Court Stated:

41 Sections 88 and 89 of the Trustee Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 464, provide as follows:

88 (1) A trustee under a deed, settlement or will, an executor or administrator, a guardian appointed by any court, a testamentary guardian, or any other trustee, however the trust is created, is entitled to, and it is lawful for the Supreme Court, or a registrar of that court if so directed by the court, to allow him or her a fair and reasonable allowance, not exceeding 5% on the gross aggregate value, including capital and income, of all the assets of the estate by way of remuneration for his or her care, pains and trouble and his or her time spent in and about the trusteeship, executorship, guardianship or administration of the estate and effects vested in him or her under any will or grant of administration, and in administering, disposing of and arranging and settling the same, and generally in arranging and settling the affairs of the estate as the court, or a registrar of the court if so directed by the court thinks proper.

(2) The court or a registrar of the court if so directed by the court, may make an order under subsection (1) from time to time, and the amount of remuneration must be allowed to an executor, trustee, guardian or administrator, in passing his or her accounts, in addition to any other allowances for expenses actually incurred to which the trustee, executor, guardian or administrator may by law be entitled.

(3) A person entitled to an allowance under subsection (1) may apply annually to the Supreme Court for a care and management fee and the court may allow a fee not exceeding 0.4% of the average market value of the assets.

89 The court may, on application to it for the purpose, settle or direct the registrar to settle the amount of the compensation, although the estate is not before the court in an action.

42 The administrator is entitled to remuneration for his work on the estate to a maximum of 5% of the gross aggregate value, including capital and income of all the assets of the estate at the date of passing, pursuant to s. 88(1) of the Trustee Act. The criteria to be considered in determining the amount of remuneration which should be awarded are set out in the much cited case of Toronto General Trusts Corp. v. Central Ontario Railway (1905), 6 O.W.R. 350 (Ont. H.C.) at para. 23wherein the Court states:

[23] From the American and Canadian precedents, based upon statutory provision for compensation to trustees, the following circumstances appear proper to be taken into consideration in fixing the amount of compensation:
(1) the magnitude of the trust; (2) the care and responsibility springing therefrom; (3) the time occupied in performing its duties; (4) the skill and ability displayed; (5) the success which has attended its administration.

43 It is not required that remuneration be fixed at a specific percentage of the gross value of the estate, it can be calculated as a lump sum provided it does not exceed 5%. In Turley, Re (1955), 16 W.W.R. 72 (B.C. S.C.) at para. 11 the Court stated:

[11] As to grounds 1 and 2 of this application, I think the principles to be applied are well settled. I adopt the statement of the principles as given in, I think, all the cases and found in Re Atkinson Estate [1952] OR 688, that the compensation allowed an executor is to be a fair and reasonable allowance for his care, pains and trouble and his time expended in or about the estate. Both responsibility and actual work done are matters for consideration and, while there should not be a rigid adherence to fixed percentages, they are to be used as a guide. I think that the factors I mentioned in my judgment on the previous motion are found here. It is not only the presence of continuing trusts that makes the realization and administration of estates difficult. It is submitted that the capital fee should be charged only on the amount realized, excluding those assets that go over in specie. While the fact that considerable portions of the estate are transferred in specie is a factor the registrar may consider in settling the percentage he allows, I think it would be quite inappropriate as a rule to exclude these in the computation of aggregate value. There appears to be evidence here of extensive work. It is the duty of the executor to administer the whole of the estate. His work in some things might not be compensated sufficiently by a percentage much in excess of the maximum allowed.

44 Maximum remuneration is not awarded as a matter of routine. Appropriate remuneration is a matter of what is fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. As stated by the B.C.C.A, in Kanee Estate, Re [1991 CarswellBC 654 (B.C. C.A.)] (19 September 1991), Vancouver Registry CA014168:

Maximum remuneration does not go as a matter of course and it is to be expected that there will be disputes over the quantum of remuneration. Section 90(1) does not prescribe an adversarial process. There are no plaintiffs, no defendants, no pleadings, no discoveries, no provisions for offers of settlement or payment into Court, and no other trappings of an adversarial nature, All interested parties are entitled to be heard but in the end the officers of the Court must decide what is fair and reasonable in all of the circumstances.
45 The amount of remuneration to be paid to the administrator is determined on a quantum merit basis which reflects the reasonable value of the services rendered, which is subject to a 5% maximum.

46 In this regard, evidence is required concerning the administrator’s experience in estate matters, the nature of the estate, the tasks undertaken, the time spent, unusual problems arising during the administration of the estate, the skill employed by the administrator, and the results achieved which were directly attributable to the administrator’s efforts. Documentary evidence and time records should be provided where they exist. The administrator provided this evidence over the course of days of testimony. In addition, extensive documentary evidence was provided by both the administrator and the beneficiaries. However, no time records were provided, as the administrator did not keep a record in this regard.

47 An inference may be drawn against an administrator for failure to provide time records in appropriate circumstances. See Lowe Estate, Re, 2002 BCSC 813 (B.C. S.C.) at para. 33.

48 A negative inference in this regard will be appropriate were criticisms in the administrator’s administration of the estate are found to be valid. In these circumstances, the administrator’s remuneration may be substantially reduced. See Lowe Estate, Re , supra, at paras. 27, 28, 41 and 42.

Trevor Todd

Trevor Todd is one of the province’s most esteemed estate litigation lawyers. He has spent more than 40 years helping the disinherited contest wills and transfers – and win. From his Kerrisdale office, which looks more like an eclectic art gallery than a lawyer’s office, Trevor empowers claimants and restores dignity to families across BC. He is a mentor to young entrepreneurs and an art buff who supports starving artists the world over. He has an eye for talent and a heart for giving back.

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