Ever look at a Will or Trust and see the words “per stirpes“? Ever been asked to prove your relationship to a decedent (more formally known as kinship) and be told that distributions are “by representation”? Ever see the word “per capita”?
What Does Per Stirpes even mean?
“Per stirpes”, “per capita”, and “by representation” are all legal jargon for different ways of distributing property to linear descendants. Linear descendants are children, grandchild, great-grandchildren of a person.
Let’s imagine that Joe Blow has three children – Mary, Barry, and Carry.
Mary has 1 son – Dairy
Barry has 2 daughters – Elarie and Fanny
Carry has 2 daughters and 1 son – Geri, Harry, and Iona
Now let’s imagine that Carry died a few years ago. Joe Blow had a series of unfortunate incidents and also died.
Here is how the various legal terms modify the way distributions are made:
Per stirpes means treating each side of the family equally.
If Joe Blow died leaving a Will dividing his estate among his children, per stirpes, then Mary would have 1/3, Barry would have 1/3rd and Carry’s three children would split 1/3. So Geri would get 1/6, Harry would get 1/6, and Iona would get 1/6.
Per capita means treating every individual equally regardless of whether they are a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild. If Joe Blow died leaving a Will dividing his estate among his children, per capita, then Mary would receive 1/5, Barry would receive 1/5, Geri would receive 1/5, Harry would receive 1/5, and Iona would each receive 1/5.
Now let’s assume that Barry, Carry, and Joe Blow are all dead.
By representation means treating every individual of the same class equally. This means all children are treated equally; all grandchildren are treated equally, and all great-grand children are treated equally, regardless of how many children their parents had. So, if Barry, Carry, and Joe are all dead, then Mary gets 1/3, and Elarie, Fanny, Geri, Harry, and Iona split the remaining 2/3 equally among themselves. Elarie gets 2/15; Fanny gets 2/15; Geri gets 2/15; Harry gets 2/15, and Iona gets 2/15 of the entire pot.
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