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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.

-Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)

"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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