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Virginia Injury & Will Contest Attorneys

What Does “Per Stirpes” Mean for Beneficiaries?

Grandfather, son, and grandson hold hands while walking on a sandy beach

You may have heard of the term “per stirpes” before, but are you completely clear on its implications?

In Latin, the term literally translates to “by branch,” which, for these purposes, means that part of the will must pass on to the person’s heirs (a branch of the person’s family tree). For instance, all of the relatives below a mother, such as her children and grandchildren, are included in a branch.

Per stirpes is a legal term for when a beneficiary passes prior to the person who created the will (the testator). The estate share of the beneficiary who passed will go to their heirs.

The term is usually used to refer to someone’s assets under a will, but it is also used in beneficiary designations for individual retirement accounts (IRAs).

Example of Per Stirpes

Consider this example:

Sarah designates her estate to be divided per stirpes among her three children: Kathy, Reed, and Liam. Kathy has two children: Mark and Taylor. Reed has one child: Allan. Liam has no children. If Reed dies, his portion will pass on to his son, Allan. Because Kathy and Liam are still living at the time of Sarah’s death, they still receive their share of Sarah’s estate. Kathy’s kids, Mark and Taylor, do not inherit anything.

Per stirpes may seem straightforward, but it can become complicated very quickly in large families or if imprecise language is used in the will or other estate planning documents.

If you have a valid reason for challenging your loved one’s will, our lawyers at Obenshain Law Group may be able to help you seek the justice you deserve. Give us a call at (540) 318-7360 or fill out an online contact form.