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This is the personal blog of Sterling Olander, Certified Public Accountant and Attorney at Law. For over five years, I have worked as a tax professional helping clients with tax mitigation strategies, tax controversies, business transactions, wealth preservation structures, tax-exempt organiations, and estate plans.

I write about any legal, tax, or technological information that I find interesting or useful in serving my clients. All ideas expressed herein are my own and don't constitute legal or tax advice.

Methods of Estate Distribution

Estates that are left to a decedent's descendants, whether by will, trust, or statute, use one of three primary methods of distribution: (1) Per stirpes or right of representation, (2) the pre-1990 Uniform Probate Code method, which is known by various names, and (3) the current Uniform Probate Code method or per capita at each generation.

The three methods result in different distributions only where multiple descendants with issue predecease a decedent. In order to illustrate these differences, I've prepared the following charts to illustrate all possible scenarios involving an individual with three children, A, B, and C. Child A has 3 children, U, V, and W; child B has 1 child, X, and child C has 2 children, Y and Z. This is the example given in the comments to the Uniform Probate Code, and I'll assume the decedent passed away with an estate worth $720. The first table illustrates respective inheritances if all children survive, with each method reaching the same result:

   Per Stirpes  Pre-1990 UPC  Current UPC 
 A  240  240  240 
 u/v/w  0  0  0 
 B  240  240  240 
 x  0  0  0 
 C  240  240  240 
 y/z  0  0  0 

The next table illustrates respective inheritances if one child predeceases the decedent. Children who have predeceased the decedent are in [brackets].  Note that the figures in the boxes for grandchildren is the amount of inheritance per grandchild. Again, each method reaches the same result.

   Per Stirpes  Pre-1990 UPC  Current UPC 
 [A]  0  0  0 
 u/v/w  80  80  80 
 B  240  240  240 
 x  0  0  0 
 C  240  240  240 
 y/z  0  0  0 
        
 A  240  240  240 
 u/v/w  0  0  0 
 [B]  0  0  0 
 x  240  240  240 
 C  240  240  240 
 y/z  0  0  0 
        
 A  240  240  240 
 u/v/w  0  0  0 
 B  240  240  240 
 x  0  0  0 
 [C]  0  0  0 
 y/z  120  120  120 

The next table illustrates respective distributions where all children predecease the decedent. The pre-1990 UPC and current UPC methods reach the same result: All grandchildren are treated equally. The per stirpes method divides what a grandchild's parent would have received among the grandchild's siblings, thereby reaching a different result.

   Per Stirpes  Pre-1990 UPC  Current UPC 
 [A]  0  0  0 
 u/v/w  80  120  120 
 [B]  0  0  0 
 x  240  120  120 
 [C]  0  0  0 
 y/z  120  120  120 

Finally, I have illustrated the different scenarios where multiple children, but not all, predecease the decedent. The per stirpes and pre-1990 UPC methods reach the same result. Again, figures in the boxes for grandchildren are the distribution amount per grandchild:

   Per Stirpes  Pre-1990 UPC  Current UPC 
 [A]  0  0  0 
 u/v/w  80  80  120 
 [B]  0  0  0 
 x  240  240  120 
 C  240  240  240 
 y/z  0  0  0 
        
 [A]  0  0  0 
 u/v/w  80  80  96 
 B  240  240  240 
 x  0  0  0 
 [C]  0  0  0 
 y/z  120  120  96 
        
 A  240  240  240 
 u/v/w  0  0  0 
 [B]  0  0  0 
 x  240  240  160 
 [C]  0  0  0 
 y/z  120  120  160