Redistributing a residuary estate — need help with math

This is a straightforward math problem but I need help. I know this will take someone here 30 seconds to arrive at the correct answer and, more importantly, explain the process. As executor of the estate in question, I need a clear way to explain what’s being done.


The will divides the estate among five beneficiaries by percentages as follows: 40-20-15-15-10. Sadly, the primary beneficiary with the 40% share died a year ago.

The will was not revised. There was no alternative disposition for the 40% share, and in any event the primary beneficiary of THAT estate is the person whose will is at hand now. So there’s no question that the 40% share goes back into the estate to be redistributed accordingly.

Now it’s time to redistribute the estate assets among the remaining beneficiaries. Trying to calculate the new percentages I can’t come up with the same answer twice and I keep confusing myself. So I figured I’d ask an expert.


So the 4 remaining people (20/15/15/10) have to divide up 100% of the estate consistent with the relative amounts they were supposed to get?

The 4 remaining people get the estate in the ratio of 4:3:3:2. They also receive a total of 100% of the estate.

Therefore, since 4x + 3x + 3x + 2x = 12x and 12x = 100 (since they receive the entire estate), x = 8 1/3.

The first person, then, gets 4 × 8 1/3 = 33 1/3% of the estate.

The second and third people each get 3 × 8 1/3 = 25% of the estate.

The last person gets 2 × 8 1/3 = 16 2/3% of the estate.

The sum of those percents is 100%, so the whole estate is distributed, and the ratio of those percents works out to 20/15/15/10.

Reported for forum change.

Have you talked to an estate lawyer in your jurisdiction?

A quick Google search suggests that depending on the jurisdiction, the inheritance may still pass through to the benficiary’s estate even if they predecease the writer of the will.

Yeah, I should point out that I have NO IDEA about anything about estates or the law; I was just approaching it from a mathematical standpoint that made logical sense, that’s all.

THANK YOU. I knew I came to the right place. :slight_smile:

And yes, I’m working with an estate attorney. He’s advised me that this lapsed gift goes back into the estate. In any event the deceased beneficiary’s entire estate was left to this person, so it’d circle back anyway.

Sorry for putting this in a wrong forum!

Wondering if you are an executor of an estate or the trustee of a simple trust? If an estate, is it going to go through probate, or is it what is some jurisdictions is called a small estate?

These questions only affect who it is that you have to satisfy with your math (or yearofglad’s math) before you can proceed. If it’s probate then you probably have to satisfy a judge before you make the disbursement. Otherwise you just need to be able to defend your actions after the fact in case there is a challenge.

(I am not a lawyer but I have experience with a couple of estates and trusts, for what that’s worth).

I am the executor of this estate, which is pretty sizable by my estimation. It will go to probate in any case. But it’s simple in that the four beneficiaries have no disputes or complications, there are no outlying relatives to challenge or anything. Before we submit for probate, I want to make sure we are all satisfied with yearofglad’s math.

The math is correct, but a bit verbose. 20+15+15+10=60. 20 is one third of 60 so “20” gets one third, “15” each get one quarter, and “10” gets one sixth.


AHarris (and others) reported this thread for a forum change because we have a rule here that requests for legal and other professional advice go in that forum, rather than here in General Questions, as a way of emphasizing that professional advice from a stranger on the Internet is not a reliable substitute for an actual professional consultation.

I and the other moderators did not act on those reports, in this case, because the question here isn’t a legal question, but a math one. Those are just fine in General Questions.

Since 40% + 15% +15% +10% = 60% =.6, just dividing by .6 gives the correct distribution with no algebra. Of course it gives the same answers as above: 33 1/3%, 25%, 25%, 16 2/3%.

As usual, IANAL but…

Isn’t there a wording that determines disposition? (per stirpes?) (or to their surviving heirs?)

A wills part of his estate to B. B is already dead when A dies.
If the will said “or his surviving heirs” then they get the share. I believe that is the meaning of per stirpes ?
If the will did not specify, then (a) fire the lawyer who wrote the will and (b) the remaining heirs split it in the same proportions.
It really does not matter what B’s will says, except as an indication of what he might have wanted to do.

If B is dead when A dies and A’s will said “or surviving heirs” Then the 40% goes to the surviving heirs. If B’s will said “I give it all to A” Then whatever B had when he died is already given to A.

The real question is - who writes a will and does not specify what happens if someone pre-deceases them, except someone too cheap to pay a lawyer?

IANAL but I have looked at wills

Per capita means equal shares to the class. So I give my money to my grandchildren per capita means each grandchild gets the same share.

Per stirpes means by descent branch. So I give my money to my grandchildren per stirpes means divide it equally (per capita) among the children, then divide each of those shares equally (per capita) among each child’s children. Then give it out.

If the deceased A has two children B and C and B has one child b, and C has two children c1 and c2, then b would get half the estate and c1 and c2 would each get 1/4 of the estate. Under per capita each grandchild would get 1/3

Note the children don’t actually get the money in either will, the first division under per stirpes was just a thought experiment, though you could leave the income to your children per capita then the residual to the grandchildren either per capita or per stirpes.

The will-writer in question (Evan) did indeed work with a lawyer. In fact, elsewhere in the will Evan directed that his home should go directly to the same primary beneficiary (Lisa) with a provision that if Lisa should predecease him the place should be sold and the proceeds become part of the residuary estate. (Lisa was also supposed to be Evan’s executor, while I was listed as successor.)

Two of the other beneficiaries have children and those bequests were stipulated as being per stirpes. The childless beneficiary’s share also has a contingency directive in the will—it would become part of the residuary estate if necessary. The fourth beneficiary is a charitable organization.

Lisa had no children or other family, and Lisa’s will left her entire residuary estate to Evan. Lisa’s will was written years before Evan’s and of course he knew what was in it. Maybe redistribution to the remaining named beneficiaries seemed to go without saying but I agree it’s an oversight.

We don’t know why no contingency was specified for Lisa’s 40% share, but at least the action to be taken is pretty clear and everyone is on the same page.

Dividing what by .6?


Nice! Thanks!

Divide each survivor’s percentage by .6.

I prefer to think in terms of multipliers. You are trying to scale up the survivors’ 60% to 100%. So each survivor’s percentage is multiplied by 100/60 or 1.666666.

20% * 1.66666 = 33.3333%
15% * 1.66666 = 25 %
15% * 1.66666 = 25 %
10% * 1.66666 = 16.6666%
If you take the multiplier of 1.6666 and you invert it: 1/1.66666 = .6.

In other words, 20% * 1.66666 is the same as 20% / .6

Since Lisa died before Evan, her will is irrelevant (except of course insofar as it had the effect of increasing Evan’s overall estate.)

If one of the beneficiaries is no more before Evan died, and what to do in that case is not specified, then I assume it’s up to common law to decide what happens to the share.
Logic seems to be that it becomes part of what everyone else shares, as discussed above.
It’s not like she virtually inherits and then passes it on to her heir(s) or anything like that.
I assume lawyer logic is - if Evan had intended that the 40% be otherwise diverted, he would have said so. he did not. So it’s part of the remaining estate to be divided up among the other 60%

But just as a note, this is where fun inheritance fights come from - incomplete will instructions or lack of wills. It sounds good that everyone is cooperating in this case.

It is exceedingly fortunate that everyone is cooperating. I fervently hope this remains the case. With the pandemic holding everything up there will be plenty of time for folks to start getting impatient and imagining different scenarios. That’s why I want to have all of MY ducks in a row, crystal clear and unwavering for as long as this process may take.

Just to add to the fun, Lisa’s executor has been in no hurry to finalize that estate, which includes real estate to be liquidated. So I won’t even know what Evan’s total estate value is until Lisa’s estate is closed and his inheritance is ultimately delivered. Loads of time for questions and quibbles to arise.