When stating how to distribute a deceased person’s assets, one method is “per stirpes” or “right of representation”. Per stirpes means that a deceased person’s assets are evenly distributed to their children, and if their children have already passed, then to the children of the deceased child (grandchildren).

Example: Jane Doe has 2 children (Joe and Jon), and each of her children have 2 children. Joe passes away before Jane does. When Jane passes away, 50% of her assets go to her living child Jon, and 50% of her assets are then split between Joe’s 2 living children (25% each).

A second method of dividing a deceased person’s assets is “per capita at each generation”. When this method is used, the assets are divided into as many equal shares as there are (i) surviving descendants in the generation nearest to the designated ancestor which contains one or more surviving descendants and (ii) deceased descendants in the same generation who left surviving descendants, if any (Minn. Stat. 524.2-709). In the example used above, Jon would receive 50% of the estate, and the 4 grandchildren would evenly split the remaining 50% of the estate.

When completing your estate planning, it’s important to talk with an attorney to know what steps to take, what language to use, and what will effectively convey and establish the wishes you have for the distribution of your property.