“My issue” – considering the meaning of “issue” in wills

The primary legal meaning of “issue”

“Issue” is a technical legal term used in succession and inheritance law and some discretionary trusts.  “Issue” is not defined in wills and succession legislation even though it occurs in some legislative provisions. Its legal meaning has been developed under  the general (common) law going back to at least 16th century English cases. 

The High Court has said that ‘issue’ is a word with a clear prima facie legal meaning.  It means descendants or progeny, and is not limited to children.1,2  Prima facie means at first instance.

Under the general law the “issue” of a person means all of their lineal descendants by blood of every degree, including their children.  That is, your “issue” includes not just your children but all of your lineal descendants of all degrees – your children, grandchildren, great-children  and so down the line without limit. See infographics. This is the primary legal meaning of issue.  

Adopted children – while the primary meaning of issue is about blood relations, legally adopted children can be described as “issue” in certain circumstances and by the operation of the adoption of children statutes. 

my issue, children, issue and children, grandchildren, descendants, inheritance, wills, deceased,

Spouses/partners are not issue and so not shown.

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Per stirpes, per capita and deceased estate distribution

Per stirpes and per capita distribution of a deceased estate

Per stirpes and per capita are Latin terms referring to the ways in which a person’s estate can be distributed among their descendants, their children, grandchildren and so on.  A person’s descendants are often referred to as “issue” in succession and inheritance law. As the term ‘issue’ refers to more family than just ‘children’ this can lead to confusion when interpreting what a will-maker intended.   For more see this article on using the words “issue” and “children” in wills.

Per stirpes and per capita are different ways of distributing property among a group or class of people, either under a will or when there isn’t one. They address the situation where one or more family descendants of a person have predeceased them. Per stirpes means ‘by the stocks, roots or branch” and per capita means ‘by the head’, by each individual person in equal shares. More

Issue and children in wills – say what you mean

For more on this topic see: ‘‘My issue” – considering the meaning of issue in wills’ 

“Issue” is a legal word often used in wills regarding estate distribution

Meaning of issue, meaning of issue of parents, issue and children in wills, next-of-kin, inheritance, succession, legal definition, meaning of the word 'issue'Key Points:  “Issue” is a legal term meaning all of a person’s lineal descendants, including but not limited to their children.  This difference is important in interpreting distribution and substitution clauses in wills.   Take care when using the words “children” and “issue” in a will and seek professional advice.

Language can be confusing. Words like ‘issue’ and ‘children’, may be thought of in one way by some, but be interpreted differently by others, see graphic.  They have the potential to generate different interpretations and outcomes.  The problems may not arise until later, leaving the question what did the deceased really mean?  This article is about the meaning of issue in wills.
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