What is the purpose of per stirpes in practical law?


Quick Answer

Per stirpes is a method used to divide the share of an intestate estate equally among a particular group of descendants such as children, explains Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Other subgroups then split the share that was due the first level group.

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Full Answer

For example, if a decedent has three children, two who are alive and one that is dead with three children of her own, the two living children inherit one third each of the estate and the three grandchildren with the dead parent each receive one-ninth of the estate, sharing the one-third that was due to the dead parent, notes Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. This division also applies if the decedent leaves a residuary estate per stirpes to a subgroup such as grandchildren. Thus, if the decedent has three children, the first with one offspring, the second with two and the last with three, the first grandchild receives one-third of the estate, the next two receive one-sixth, and the last three receive one-ninth, respectively.

This method of estate distribution is different from per capita. With per capita, all levels of ancestors receive an equal share of the estate, whether they are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren, explains Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law. In short, per stirpes is division by branch and per capita is division by individual.

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