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A.Word.A.Day--per stirpes

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

This week's theme: Terms from law

per stirpes (pur-STUR-peez) noun

A method of dividing an estate in which each branch of the descendants of a deceased person receives an equal share.

[From Latin, literally "by roots" or "by stocks".]

An example would be helpful. A man has three children A, B, and C, and at the time of his death, only A and B are alive. Per stirpes division of the property means that A receives one third, B receives one third, and the final one third share is equally divided among C's children.

A different way to divide an estate is per capita (by heads) where each person receives equal share irrespective of how far down he or she lies in the family tree.

"When adding children [as beneficiaries in a will], beware the following trap: One child dies before you do and the whole IRA [Individual Retirement Account] goes to the others, meaning you've stiffed the offspring of the deceased child and possibly created a legal or family mess. You can avoid this (as well as avoid cutting out a child or grandchild born between the time you revise a form and your death) by using 'to my descendants per stirpes.'"
Neil Weinberg and Matthew Swibel; Protect Your IRA; Forbes (New York); Nov 25, 2002.

X-Bonus

Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. -Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, poet and novelist (1826-1887)

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