Within a Last Will and Testament, the difference between “per stipes” and “per capita” is how the estate’s distribution is handled should one of the named beneficiaries die. So knowledge of the definition of each is critical to create a Will that matches the testator’s intent.
“Per stirpes” means that the estate of the person who dies (this person is called the testator) is to be divided into equal parts, and each beneficiary of the testator is to receive one part or share of the estate. If any of the testator\’s beneficiaries should die before the testator, that deceased beneficiary\’s part or share of the estate will pass through to the named beneficiary’s own heirs.
“Per Capita” means that the testator\’s estate is to be divided into equal parts and each beneficiary of the testator shall share in the estate. If a beneficiary predeceases the testator, instead of that beneficiary\’s share being transferred or passed down to his or her or heirs, that share is divided among the testator\’s remaining beneficiaries who are still alive.
In the definitions above, the beneficiary does not need to be a child of the testator; the beneficiary can be any person. Per stirpes and per capita distribution are not limited to children of the testator.
To create a Will in either format, see details on Standard Legal’s Last Will and Testament legal forms software.