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Understanding “Per Stirpes” in Estate Planning

As I prepare my will, I’ve encountered the term “per stirpes” regarding the distribution of property to my children. But why does the law sound like it’s referencing zebras?

Firstly, it’s not “per stripes” but “per stirpes,” originating from Latin and dating back to ancient property law.

While many of us want our property to pass down to our children, we often overlook what happens if our children predecease us. In such cases, the “per stirpes” designation becomes crucial.

If a child has passed away before their parent, leaving no children of their own, the distribution among the surviving children is straightforward. For instance, if you have three children and one dies without offspring, the remaining children would equally divide the property, as stated in your will.

However, complications arise when a deceased child has children of their own, i.e., grandchildren. Should these grandchildren share in the portion designated for their deceased parent?

This is where “per stirpes” comes into play. If one of your children has passed away, leaving behind two grandchildren, the remaining children would still receive an equal share, while the grandchildren would inherit their deceased parent’s portion divided among them.

While this seems fair, it can result in discrepancies among grandchildren. There are alternative options to consider, or you could stick with “per stirpes,” the choice most people make.

Zebras have nothing to do with it.

If you have questions or wish to discuss your specific situation, feel free to reach out to us at (321) 729-0087.

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