Some of the legalese used in estate planning can sound like a foreign language, and in some cases it may be. Per Stirpes is one of the those terms.
So, what does it mean? That may be one of the most common questions from clients when they review their estate planning documents. It’s certainly a fair question, since it doesn’t tend to come up in everyday conversation. This term is commonly used in estate planning, since writing out the actual meaning of the phrase would add another large paragraph to a will.
Per Stirpes is a Latin phrase which literally means “by the roots.” It means that descendants of the next generation following a beneficiary will each receive an equal share of the beneficiary’s share of the estate if the beneficiary has predeceased the decedent. Since the explanation may be as unclear as the term itself, it may be easier to illustrate it with an example.
Jim dies without a spouse, but he has one son, Ken. Actually he had one son, but Ken tragically died before Jim. Ken had two children; Ken, Jr. and Susan, and they survived both Ken and Jim. Jim dies with a will stating that his estate goes to Ken “on a per stirpes basis.”
The result: since Ken is not alive to get his inheritance, Ken, Jr. and Susan will take it on Ken’s behalf, and split it 50/50. It doesn’t matter if Ken, Jr. and Susan have children of their own because those children, Jim’s grandchildren, would get nothing since their parents survived them.
Ask your estate planning attorney to walk you through how your estate distribution works if the beneficiaries of your will receive their shares on a per stirpes basis. If you are in Rochester, NY or Finger Lakes area, please call our office to make an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs.