Q: If an item in a will states In the event my spouse predeceases me, I give and bequeath the sum of * to my son per stirpe
What exactly does that mean? Does the son really inherit anything?
A: While a review of the estate planning documents/will is needed and necessary, it generally is telling you this; if the spouse dies first then the son can take that designated portion, it is an alternative backup option in the event the spouse dies first. The son only inherits if the spouse is deceased at that time. Per Stirpes also is saying, if the spouse is deceased first and then later the son becomes deceased, per stirpes means that the son's heirs will receive an inheritance on his behalf if he outlives the spouse in this scenario.
"Per stirpes", as opposed to "per capita", means that an heir takes that portion that his ancestor would take. Thus, if in your example, the spouse and the son both die before the testator (the person who made the will), and the son is survived by one child and two grandchildren, the son's child gets 1/2 of the estate and each of the son's grandchildren gets 1/4.
If it were "per capita", the child and the two grandchildren would each get 1/3 of the estate.
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