Life Planning: Per Stirpes, Per Capita, and Perfecting Your Final Wishes


While all phases of life are accompanied by important decisions, those that come later—such as Life Planning–certainly require the help and advice of trusted legal counsel.

How will your spouse and children be taken care of after you pass on? What will happen to your property, bank accounts, or other financial interests you hold? Taking a little time to plan for these matters in advance will ensure that your wishes and the best interest of your loved ones are taken care of in your absence.

When many of us think of Life Planning, we first think of a will – who gets what when you pass away? It seems straightforward enough, but it’s not as simple as designating a few names and listing properties beside each. Life happens – you may pass away after one of your children or loved ones. Then what? If you leave your life savings to your daughter but she dies a few days before you, who would receive the money?

Consider our example above: Here we have a classic instance of two estate planning options – allocation of assets Per Stirpes vs Per Capita. Luckily, trusted legal counsel can help you sort through issues such as these.

So, below let’s consider our outcome based on a scenario where you (A for Adult) have three children:

B = Betty
C = Charlie
D = Debra

Your kids have a total of three grandchildren (B1, B2, D1)

What happens if your will grants equal shares to each of your three children (Betty, Charlie, and Debra), but two of these children (Betty and Debra) pass away before you do? What would your grandchildren receive?

Per Stirpes: Think of this is “by the stripe” or “down the line” allocation of assets. Grandchildren receive an equal portion of their deceased parent’s original share.

Life Planning Ridgeland Law Firm

  • Betty’s two surviving children each get one-half of Betty’s share (1/2 x 1/3 = 1/6th share each).
  • Charlie is living, so he gets his 1/3rd share.
  • Debra’s one surviving child gets Debra’s 1/3rd share.

As you can see, the grandchildren receive their share “by the stripe” or “down the line” based on what portion their deceased parent would have received.

Per Capita: This term more or less means “by the head.” This is more akin to simple division, once we account for the first generation.

  • Your living child (Charlie) will get exactly what you granted to him (1/3rd). Easy enough.

But what about the surviving grandchildren? Well, (similar to per stirpes) per capita allocation takes whatever interests your deceased children would have received, but divides it among the surviving grandchildren “by the head.”

  • Once Charlie gets his 1/3rd interest, 2/3rd of the assets remains left over for the grandchildren. This remainder is lumped together, then we split this remainder among the grandchildren “by the head.” The surviving grandchildren each receive an equal share (2/3 divided by 3 grandchildren = 2/9th share each).

While not overly complicated here, understanding these theories takes some time. And they can become a bit of a mess – especially based on an individual’s family structure, specific wishes, and the simple unpredictability of life. Without a doubt, a qualified Mississippi attorney will go a long way to helping you navigate these matters.


If you aren’t confident that your life plans are where they should be, you’d be wise to contact an experienced Life Planning Attorney.

With more than 18 years of legal experience and focusing now almost entirely in all facets of Family Law, Wills, Estates, and Life Planning, Attorney Vangela M. Wade offers representation based on a flat fee basis for many uncontested cases and affordable consultation fees. This is a huge plus for anyone looking to smoothly and affordably resolve legal matters and/or planning their legacy.

Get in touch with The Wade Law Firm, PLLC in Ridgeland, Mississippi to find out about our flat-fee solutions today.

Attorney Vangela M. Wade

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Posted in Estate and Life Planning, The Wade Law Firm

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