Do Grandchildren Inherit the Parent’s Portion If the Parent Is Deceased?

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The question of whether grandchildren inherit their parent’s portion of an estate if the parent is deceased before the grandparent’s death is a common concern in estate planning and probate law in the United States. Inheritance laws, including those affecting grandchildren, vary by state and are governed by wills, statutes on intestate succession, and principles such as per stirpes and per capita distribution.

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The distribution of an estate in the United States depends on several factors, including whether the deceased person (decedent) left a will and the laws of intestate succession in the state where the estate is being probated.

Wills and Testaments

A will is a legal document that outlines how a decedent’s assets should be distributed after their death. If the decedent’s will explicitly mentions the inheritance rights of grandchildren, especially in cases where the grandchild’s parent (the decedent’s child) predeceased the decedent, these wishes are generally honored in probate court.

Intestate Succession

Intestate succession laws come into effect when a person dies without a will, or if the will does not comprehensively cover all assets. These laws vary significantly from state to state but generally aim to distribute the decedent’s estate among their closest living relatives in a manner deemed fair by the legislature.

Distribution Methods

Two primary distribution methods determine how assets are passed down to the next generations: per stirpes and per capita.

Per Stirpes

Per stirpes, meaning “by the branch” in Latin, ensures that if an heir predeceases the decedent, the heir’s share of the inheritance will pass down to their descendants. Under this principle, grandchildren can inherit their deceased parent’s share of their grandparent’s estate.

Per Capita

Per capita distribution divides an estate equally among all heirs at the same generational level. When applied without regard to the per stirpes principle, grandchildren would not automatically inherit their deceased parent’s share unless specified by state law or the terms of the will.

Jurisdictional Variations

Each state has its own laws governing inheritance, including the rights of grandchildren to inherit if their parent is deceased.

  • California: Follows a per stirpes approach, allowing grandchildren to inherit their deceased parent’s share.
  • Texas: Also uses a modified version of per stirpes for intestate estates, providing a way for grandchildren to inherit directly.
  • Florida: Has specific provisions in its intestate succession laws that include grandchildren in the distribution of assets if their parent predeceased the decedent.

Key Considerations

Understanding the inheritance rights of grandchildren requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • The presence and specificity of a decedent’s will.
  • The intestate succession laws of the state where the estate is being settled.
  • Whether the estate will be distributed per stirpes, per capita, or a combination of both.


The question of whether grandchildren inherit their deceased parent’s portion of an estate is addressed through a combination of wills, intestate succession laws, and distribution principles like per stirpes and per capita. These rules vary by state, emphasizing the importance of consulting legal professionals for estate planning and probate matters.


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