Have you ever heard a lawyer use the term “per stirpes?” Or have you seen it used in a Will or a Trust and been confused by what it means? Lawyers often use Latin phrases that are common in the business, but not so common in everyday language.
Per Stirpes – What Is It?
In Latin, “per stirpes” literally means, “by the branch.”
In the case of a Will, this means the beneficiaries who are closest in relation to the deceased person will each receive an equal share of the estate. If one of the closest relatives is deceased, their descendants will evenly share the part of the estate due to their deceased parent. If a deceased beneficiary doesn’t have decedents, their share is divided among the closest remaining relatives.
Still confused about how this works in real life? Here’s an example that may help:
Brian has three children and his Will states, “I leave my estate to my children, equally, or to his or her issue, per stirpes, if the child fails to survive me.” This means Brian is leaving everything in his estate to his children equally. Each child receives one-third of Brian’s estate.
But what happens if Brian outlives his children? Let’s say one of his children, Jenny, passes away before him and the other two remain. Jenny left behind four surviving children.
After Brian passes, the two remaining children review his Will. The Will stated the three siblings were to each receive one-third of his estate. Because of Jenny’s passing, her one-third is split equally between her four children because of the term “per stirpes.”
The remaining surviving siblings still receive their one-third as outlined in the Will and Jenny’s one-third is distributed equally to her descendants. If Jenny didn’t have surviving descendants, her two remaining siblings would split her one-third equally among themselves.
What Per Stirpes in Florida May Mean for You
Per stirpes may have a different meaning for you depending on if you’re having a Will prepared or if you’re an heir of an estate.
If you’re developing a Will, per stirpes in Florida will make sure your estate is passed to the next closest descendants in line (often grandchildren). If you’re reviewing the Will of your parent and it mentions “per stirpes,” it means the share for any deceased close relatives will go to their descendants, if any. When there are no descendants, the estate is split evenly between the closest surviving relatives as outlined in the Will.
Getting Help Understanding a Will
Estate planning can be a challenging and complex to navigate. Peace of mind comes with knowing you’re leaving your final wishes behind with clear language and legal terms. Per stirpes is a common legal term used to distribute your estate and is defined by statute so there’s no confusion on how to distribute your estate amongst the heirs.
Whether you’re developing your own Will, or trying to understand a Will left behind by a family member, seek the help of an experienced attorney to help you understand proper estate planning, legal language, and how the process works for all parties involved.
Need help preparing or understanding a Will? At Upchurch Law, we have years of experience helping Florida residents create clear and concise estate plans for peace of mind. Get in touch today to learn how we can help with your estate planning needs and ensure your final wishes are carried out.
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