As a grandchild of the decedent, you may become a beneficiary in your grandparent’s will if your parents are deceased. However, estate distribution at this level is complex and can be challenging to understand. What is per stirpes distribution? What if another family member gets more than you? Can you contest the will?

How per stirpes distribution works

At least one of the original beneficiaries must have predeceased the decedent for per stirpes distribution to apply. That being the case, the share previously held by that beneficiary will pass on to their children—the next generation. The estate is then divided “by representation” or “by class.”

For example:

If your parents predeceased your grandmother, their share of her estate passes to you and your brother. However, your aunt will still receive her original share. This means your aunt will receive 50% of the estate and you and your brother will share your mother’s allotted 50%. This share comes out to 25% each.

Note: If your aunt had also passed away before your grandmother’s death, and she had only one child, that one child would receive all 50% of her share.

Can you contest your share of the estate?

The standards for contesting a will remain the same, no matter the form of distribution. You cannot contest simply on the grounds that you object to the amount of inheritance compared to another family member.

5 grounds for contesting a will in New York

  • Lack of mental capacity
  • Lack of validity
  • Fraud
  • Undue influence
  • Duress

Many people aren’t familiar with the two types of distribution options that apply in multiple generation distribution scenarios. The other, less common form of distribution is per capita, which allows equal distribution for all “classes.”

In the absence of grounds for will contest, your grandmother likely signed this will with the original beneficiaries in mind without malice. However, if you have reason to suspect that all was not well with the formation of this will, there are legal options available to you.