In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson discusses two Latin terms commonly used in estate planning.
Hello, class! Today is a Latin lesson. Why a Latin lesson? Well, because in estate planning documents there are two very commonly found Latin expressions and it’s important and helpful to understand what they mean. The two that I’m talking about are “per stirpes” (stirpes, not stripes) and “per capita.” So what do those mean?
“Per stirpes” basically means follow down the family tree. If I have three children and I leave my estate to them per stirpes, if when I die all three children are living then they’re going to get a third a piece. If one of them has died before me, then we’re going to look down that branch of the family tree and if they have any surviving children, let’s say the one that died left three children, then their three children are each going to get a third of the one third share that their parent would have received if living. If one has died and they don’t have any children, if you can’t go down the family tree you go across. In that instance, the other two children would just get a half a piece instead of a third.
“Per capita” – Let’s say that I want to leave something to my grandchildren and I’m blessed and I have 14 grand children, and I don’t want to go down to great-grandchildren because that may be 37 people, so I leave it to my 14 grandchildren per capita. So, what that means is if one of my grandchildren dies before me, it doesn’t bounce down anything else. It just means now there are 13 shares rather than 14.
“Per capita” – If somebody dies, it falls out and there are less shares.
“Per stirpes” – If somebody dies, it goes down the family tree.
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