Understanding Your Will or Trust: “Per Stirpes” and “Per Capita”

I sometimes feel that my job as a lawyer and drafter of legal documents is to translate my clients’ plain-english articulation of their wishes into legalese.  Granted, I try to draft my documents with as much plain english and as little legalese as possible.  Nevertheless, sometimes legal terminology is necessary for effectively addressing clients’ legal problems.  The legal terms “per stirpes” and occasionally “per capita” are legalese that commonly appear in wills and trusts.  Almost every time I review with a client her will or trust, the client has questions about the meanings of these terms.  Thus, I felt that preparing a short explanation of would be helpful to understanding these terms.

1) Per Stirpes: proportionately divided among beneficiaries according to their deceased ancestor’s share.

For example, Gina dies.  Gina had 2 children: A, who survives Gina, and B, who dies before Gina dies.  B had 2 children, C and D, who are still alive.  A will inherit 50 percent and C and D will inherit B’s 50 percent, which will be divided equally between C (25 percent) and D (25 percent).

2) Per Capita: divided equally among all individuals.

Thus, in the above example, under a per capita distribution, A, C, and D will each inherit 1/3.

In Florida, property descends per stirpes unless the will or trust says otherwise.  See Fla. Stat. § 732.104, § 732.603, § 732.611.



If you have any questions about these concepts, please contact me at 954-944-3929 or nrumbak@rumbaklaw.com.


*This document contains legal information, but does not contain legal advice.
*This document has examined laws in effect in July 2012.

Leave a Reply