Family is Family, but What is Per Stirpes?

Family is Family, but What is Per Stirpes?

When we consider Will writing understanding the distribution of an estate is vital. Creating gifts in your Will goes some way to ensure that you have confidence your loved ones will benefit directly from your estate. However there are some sticking points and, at a highly emotive time, families can descend into battles over what beneficiaries may or may not receive. Therefore it is wise to be clear when instructing your Will drafter as to the manner in which a gift may be dispersed.

Stating clearly your intentions can prevent family feuds, because like the Kacey Musgraves song says “ They might not be fancy, but family is family”.

One phrase that can intimidate or confuse is Per Stirpes which means “by root or stock; by branch” and covers direct descendants. It is easy to fall into a false sense of safety that having written a Will that a testator wishes are covered. Unfortunately, a poorly drafted Will could leave those wishes open to interpretation.

Section 33 of The Wills Act 1837 operates to prevent lapse where a testator makes a gift in their will to their own children or remoter descendants. It will operate unless expressly excluded or unless a contrary intention is obvious.

For example, a testator gifts the residue of his estate simply “to my son A absolutely” and A unfortunately dies before the testator. Provided A died leaving issue of his own (children), S33 will work to prevent the gift of residue failing. A’s share will pass to his own children in equal shares instead.

Changing the above example so that A had two children, B and C, and C also died before the testator leaving issue of his own, 2 children. At this point B would inherit 50%, and the 2 children of C would inherit 25% each.

Unless you very specifically want to limit the distribution of your estate, Per Stirpes enables your remoter defendants to fulfill the gifts of Will. Understanding why your Will is worded a certain way gives you the power to proactively protect your family in a fair and even manner.

Langham Wills offer a uniquely individual Will writing service with emphasis on explaining clearly the way in which certain elements work to prevent a Will failing and achieve your wishes. For your personal discussion on your Will requirements, contact Langham Wills Ltd on 01473 487611 or email