Per Stirpes Vs Per Capita


To create your will, you can specify how you would like your assets distributed – two commonly-used approaches being per stirpes and capita.

Understanding the differences between per stirpes and capita is essential when selecting an approach best suited to your family situation. Both terms have specific Latin terms with particular meanings attached.

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Latin origins

Upon creating a last will or revocable trust, you will likely be asked to choose who should inherit your assets when you pass away. Your options for distribution could include “per stirpes” or “per capita,” two Latin terms with different meanings that could potentially have detrimental ramifications on your estate if not understood correctly.

Both per capita and per stirpes allow you to distribute assets based on a beneficiary’s lineal relationship, but each method has unique applications in certain circumstances. You must understand these two techniques to determine which will work best in your family situation.

An estate distributed per capita ensures that each beneficiary will receive an equal portion of their inheritance. If one beneficiary dies before it’s time for distribution, their share will go directly to their children who remain alive; so for instance, if Jillian, whom you designate to inherit an equal amount from your estate before you pass away, her portion would be distributed among her offspring who are considered her co-heirs.

The problem with this arrangement is it can lead to inheritance disputes. For example, if you name both your son and daughter co-beneficiaries, one has more children than the other. That person would receive more of the inheritance while leaving out the one with fewer children who might feel left out and cause resentment among the siblings.

Per Stirpes, arrangements can address these concerns by permitting the descendants of deceased beneficiaries to represent themselves and represent their parents per Stirpes is based on the principle that each branch of a family tree has distinct features, no two units being the same; per capita is often used alongside per stirpes to ensure all descendants are treated equally.

Example: If your estate is structured so it will be distributed per stirpes and one of the children named in your will passes before you, their share of the inheritance will pass directly onto their children or even grandchildren; then each member of those children can divide up their portions equally among themselves, eliminating any resentments.

Many people favor stirpes arrangements because of their tax efficiency; inheritance passes directly onto individual descendants rather than being divided among spouses of beneficiaries. If you need help selecting which distribution method would work best for your family, consult an experienced attorney as the best solution will depend on individual circumstances as well as how closely related beneficiaries are; per stirpes might be tempting due to wanting to ensure they’re cared for after you’re gone but this decision should only be made after careful consideration has taken place with all beneficiaries involved and their relationships with one another – please seek guidance from an attorney when making this critical decision as per stirpes isn’t always best!


Per stirpes is an invaluable legal tool that allows assets to pass legally from generation to generation without needing to adjust your estate plan as new grandchildren arrive or other members die off. For example, if your estate is divided equally among three children and should anyone predecease you, they would receive their deceased sibling’s share in addition to their inheritance – without needing revision or updates as more people pass away or other family members change ownership of assets.

Per stirpes also helps eliminate infighting among your beneficiaries. If they share close ties, per stirpes is an ideal way to ensure that their inheritance will stay intact by designating them as co-beneficiaries on your life insurance policy. Per stirpes is often chosen by those with tight-knit families looking to avoid potential fights among heirs over their inheritance.

There is no best way to distribute your estate, so you must consult an estate planning attorney to identify which approach best reflects your wishes and goals.

Per capita distribution means that each beneficiary’s share will depend on their age at death, making this an effective means for people with young children. Unfortunately, however, there can be drawbacks associated with this approach if one of your beneficiaries passes before you do; their share would go to their children and spouse instead of being distributed equally among all living beneficiaries.

As another potential pitfall of leaving assets to minor beneficiaries when you pass, they will not be able to access their share until the age of majority has been reached. This can create complications when trying to pass down assets to them.

Per capita distribution does not consider relationships between beneficiaries; for instance, if you wish to distribute more of your estate among your children than grandchildren, using per stirpes distribution would be necessary.

Per capita distributions are ideal for individuals with multiple beneficiaries who wish to ensure everyone is treated equally. Understanding the differences between per stirpes and capita can help you decide which strategy best reflects your wishes. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney for guidance in developing an approach that protects yourself and your loved ones. Call or email us now so our knowledgeable estate planning team can arrange a complimentary consultation meeting. We can answer any of your estate planning queries and offer an extensive list of available services that we can provide you with. From creating trusts or wills to updating existing documents and reviewing current ones – we are here to assist with achieving your estate planning goals.