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Estate Planning

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Dick Wolf and Executor Commissions

As an attorney, becoming a fan of NBC’s Law & Order franchise is something of an occupational hazard. I came for Jerry Orbach’s trench coat and Sam Waterston’s eyebrows, but have remained to see Detective Stabler thwart organized crime and battle midlife crisis. Indeed, I have stayed long enough to see Dick Wolf, Law & Order’s creator, start a similar franchise on CBS (FBI, FBI: Most Wanted, and FBI: International).

As an estate planning attorney, however, there is often little connection between my work and Wolf’s crime shows. That changed this past week, much to my delight. In the 3/26/24 episode of FBI: Most Wanted, a basketball coach legally adopted an elite high school prospect to enable him to move to the U.S. and earn endorsement money. As the player later rose to stardom at a New York college, he signed a will nominating the coach as his executor, but not a beneficiary. Aggrieved, the coach schemed to have the player murdered so that he could collect commissions as the will’s executor under New York law. 

This is likely the first and last crime drama episode to be centered around New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act section 2307, a statute I routinely coach my clients on. Under this law, an executor can receive a commission of 2-5% of the estate’s value, depending on its size. As a result, being an executor can be lucrative, serving to compensate a deceased’s family member or friend for the extensive duties they perform. 

If you’re considering how to compensate your executor in your will, schedule a free consultation with me here. I am happy to talk through the options with you. 

In the meantime, this blog post must fade to black…Executive Producer…Dick Wolf.