Does “per stirpes” in Will ever lapse due to the passage of time?

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Does “per stirpes” in Will ever lapse due to the passage of time?

My mother died 5 years ago and left property in the two childrens’ names (my sister and I). But she added the phrase “per stirpes.” I understand that to mean, that if my sister or I had predeceased my mother, then that sister’s share would be given to her children. But what about later? 10 or 20 years from now, when 1 of the sisters dies. Does the other sister get the entire property? Or does the deceased sister’s children still get her share?

Asked on August 18, 2010 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Although "per stirpes" is described in many areas of legal writing as "by representation" or "by class", I learned it differently:  "through the roots."  My teaching gives a much clearer understanding that once property is given in a will (bequeathed) in this manner then it proceeds to be distributed that way forever.  So your nieces and nephews have the right to their Mother's share of the estate of your Mother, their Grandmother, upon distribution.  I am assuming that that property is or will be transferred before anyone else passes but even if it does not, they have a claim to what was rightfully their Mother's on the passing of their Grandmother.  Get clarification by an attorney in your area who can also read the Will.  Good luck. 


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