Share and share alike vs per stirpes

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Share and share alike is a phrase meaning each person should have equal parts of the whole, whether the whole be positive or negative. It is used when every member of a group shares in a monetary prize or in an arduous task. The phrase does not require hyphens, unless it is used as an adjective (e.g., share-and-share-alike attitude).

This idiom is particularly used in wills and legal documents declaring what portion of the estate goes to each person. Share and share alike means that each person has an equal portion of the allotment. Another phrase used in wills that means the same thing is per capita.

Per stirpes (pronounced /per stur pees/) is another way to designate allotment in a will, this time by a group of people. It is used when an heir may pass before the owner of the will. For instance, ‘to my daughter or her children, per stirpes‘. This term is uncommon enough that when used outside of a legal document it is usually defined in text.

The phrase is pure Latin and still requires italics to set it apart as from a foreign language.


The thought of such goings on may be rather hard for us to swallow but their share and share alike habits are nature’s way of maximising the benefits of a deeper more varied gene pool and boosting chances of nestlings thriving with both uncles and aunts calling to feed them. [Epsom Guardian]

But what if one of them dies before you? Many standard beneficiary designation forms let you provide for per stirpes distributions; that’s the legal term for passing inheritances down to the next generation if one beneficiary dies before the account owner, rather than automatically having that beneficiary’s share go to other co-beneficiaries. [Forbes]

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