Question: Can a personal representative charge the estate for cleaning up and disposing of the decadent’s property? If I have my wife do it, can I pay her?
Answer: Cleaning up a decedent’s property is an important responsibility of the personal representative. Just like when you sell your own home, a personal representative should take steps that will increase the value of the estate property by an amount that would exceed the amount they would cost to complete. This probably means at least cleaning the property, if not updating it or renovating it, as recommended by a real estate professional. The personal representative may charge a reasonable amount for time spent doing this, or get reimbursed for reasonable costs of having someone else do it. If the amount that you are paying your wife to handle the cleanup is reasonable, that should be fine.
What’s reasonable? That can be in the eye of the beholder. But a good way to make sure you’re being reasonable is to consider how much you would have to pay a professional for the services you are considering having your wife provide. You will then need to honestly and fairly assess whether the service your wife is providing is as good as what a professional would provide. If it isn’t, the amount you pay her should reflect that, because ultimately, your legal obligation is to maximize the value of the estate for its beneficiaries.