Why Does My Sister Want to Be Paid for Being the Executor of My Mother’s Will?

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My mother passed away in 2021. She left her estate in equal shares to my sister, my brother and me. My siblings were named coexecutors of her will. It was relatively easy to sort out her house and belongings and to distribute the money. My sister insisted on handling everything: “I’ve got it,” she would say when we offered to help. Most of the funds were distributed soon after my mother’s death. But there remains a balance of $150,000. When my brother asked my sister to distribute it, she sent a long email saying she deserves to be paid for her work. My brother and I are surprised, sad and angry: The will doesn’t say anything about paying executors. My sister was an ample beneficiary, and her work was finished 18 months ago. If she wanted to be paid for what I view as an act of love, she should have brought it up at the beginning. Thoughts?

SIBLING

Let’s skip the knee-jerk reaction (“What a greedy sister!”) and consider this issue more fully. When wills are silent or don’t explicitly prohibit the payment of executors, most states have laws that set guidelines for their reasonable payment — usually an hourly rate or a small percentage of the estate. In my experience as a lawyer, though, executors of family estates who are also beneficiaries usually waive payment.

Still — and I say this respectfully — it is facile for you to call your sister’s work easy or to suggest that it be done free of charge (as an “act of love”) when, despite your offers, you did none of it. Having served as the executor of my mother’s estate, I can report that it was time-consuming and, also, that I wouldn’t have taken a penny for it. So, maybe you and your sister both have a point?

Ask a local lawyer what compensation the coexecutors of your mother’s estate are entitled to under state law. Unless your mother was extremely wealthy, it will not be close to $150,000. But if the estate is still pending and state law allows for payment to executors, your sister is entitled to ask the probate court for reasonable payment for her work. Inevitably, this will lead to hard feelings among you, and I am sorry for that. So, for those making wills, remember to stipulate whether executors are entitled to payment for their services.

My husband and I moved to the suburbs with our two young children. Our home is close to a neighbor’s house on one side — only six feet apart. The problem: We smelled cannabis inside our house recently that seemed to be seeping in from the outside. We suspect it came from our neighbors: They are closest, and the smell was stronger on their side of the house. How can we tell them nicely that the smell bothers us?

NONSMOKER

I get the big picture: You don’t like the smell of cannabis. But I’m fuzzy on the details. If your neighbors are smoking in the narrow alley between your homes, ask politely: “Could you smoke on the other side of your house, please? The smell is wafting into ours.”

But if you believe the smoke is coming from inside their home, traveling across the narrow yard and seeping into your house, I suggest calling a contractor to check the seals around your windows and doors. Apart from the smell of cannabis, heating a drafty home will be expensive this winter.

My husband and I were very close with another couple. (Think: hanging out every week and traveling together.) Now, they don’t initiate get-togethers and always seem to be busy when we do. This is not the case with other friends, based on social media. Should we stop making the effort? That feels wrong, given our history.

FRIEND

If I’ve done something to upset a close friend or if one of them wants a break, I prefer to know about it. Misunderstandings are inevitable, and I like to try to work them out. (Not everyone feels this way. I respect that, too.)

You or your husband might say to one of them: “We miss seeing you. Did we do something to upset you?” Then listen. Your friend may tell you — or shy away. It may also take a while to get an honest answer, but I think the question is worth asking.

My husband has a flirty colleague. (She flirts with everyone.) They work for a large nonprofit and have started referring to each other as “partners.” I have heard people use this term when they become equity stakeholders — “I made partner” — but not when they just work for the same company or use it only to refer to each other. My husband says it’s normal. Is it?

WIFE

Not in my experience. Years ago, co-workers used the terms “office husband” and “office wife” to refer humorously to their (platonic) go-to colleague: the person with whom they most often ate lunch, took coffee breaks and chatted. (I haven’t heard them used recently.)

Unless your husband and his co-worker are part of a dedicated two-person team, their nomenclature seems weird to me, and your husband’s attempt to normalize it sounds like gaslighting. Ask him to be more mindful of boundaries with his colleague.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on the platform X.

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