Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
Latin for "by head," meaning to be determined by the number of people. Under a will, this is the most common method of determining what share of property each beneficiary gets when one of the beneficiaries dies before the willmaker, leaving children of his or her own. For example, Fred leaves his house jointly to his son Alan and his daughter Julie. But Alan dies before Fred does, leaving two young children. If Freds will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per capita, Julie and the two grandchildren will each take a third. If, on the other hand, Freds will states that heirs of a deceased beneficiary are to receive the property per stirpes, Julie will receive one-half of the property, and Alans two children will share his half in equal shares (through Alan by right of representation).