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Silly Will
A will that contains nonsensical bequests and other weird oddities you wouldn't find in most wills.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-10-17 17:17:35 sponsor: Oreochan (last reply: 2012-11-10 01:43:12)

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I'm gonna launch this trope on Sunday.

This YKTTW is part of a TRS effort to split Will into subtropes, turn it into a disambiguation and spin off a index from it. Check out the thread here.
A will that contains ridiculous bequests, strange conditions and other weird oddities. This type of will often contains demeaning, cumbersome tasks to earn the fortune and might openly insult the inheritor. The inheritors are usually people you wouldn't expect the inheritance to go to, such as strangers, unknown relatives or even pets. The will may also contain bequests that no one would ever want or need. Sometimes, however, a twist will be used to make the bequeathed gift only look useless at first but turns out to contain something more valuable.

See also On One Condition, which often overlaps with this.

Examples

Film
  • In Brewsters Millions (1985), the plot of the movie is the Silly Will condition: he inherits 30 million dollars, 10% of the estate, he must spend all of it within a month. The hurdle is that he can't acquire assets, donate, or simply throw the money away, and nobody else may know what he's doing. He spends the movie hiring assistants, renting hotels, and baffling his friends who think money drove him insane.
  • The House On Haunted Hill is about a millionaire who leaves a fortune to be shared among some stock horror-film victims if they can spend a night in his haunted house and still be alive the next day.
  • In Young Frankenstein, the aged Baron Beaufort von Frankenstein leaves instructions that his estate shall be given to his distant nephew rather than shared among a cadre of mooching relatives if said nephew has become a respected doctor of his own accord. One of the relatives tries to pass this clause off as insanity. The scene was removed from the final film.

Literature
  • Isaac Asimov's Black Widowers short story "To the Barest". When Ralph Ottur (the founder of the Black Widowers club) dies, he leaves a will which requires the members to solve a riddle in order for one of the members to receive a bequest.
  • Subversion: Dumbledore's will in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows seems to be this at first, but each item proves to be very significant later on.
  • In Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long tries to put together his will so that all his assets will be left to Prostitutes, Panhandlers, and other undesirables beginning with 'P'. When someone points out that probably won't survive legal arbitration, he decides to leave it to a cat shelter instead.
  • In The Ultimate Gift when his rich grandad, Howard "Red" Stevens died, Jason thought he was going to inherit a piece of the old man's multi-billion dollar estate, but it came with a condition. In order to get his share of the willed inheritance, Jason must complete 12 separate assignments within a year.
  • Unseen Academicals: One of the bequests requires that the wizards engage in hunting the Megapode: carried by University porters, they chase a man with a big bird-shaped hat. The one that sets off the plot, however, requires that the wizards play football (they're not required to win, but try getting Archchancellor Ridcully to understand that).

Live-Action TV
  • In The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, Perrin leaves a fortune to be shared among his friends, on the condition that they each do something sufficiently absurd.
  • Slings and Arrows has Oliver, who asked to have his head severed upon his death so it can be stripped of flesh and used in a production of Hamlet.
  • When Titus mother commited suicide one of the apparently many oddities in her will, was for Titus to eat Apples, the catch? Apples was her mother's petdog, when she was little, the lawyer then procedes to put a frozen (enveloped in silver foil) dog corpse

Tabletop Games
  • Part of Dunkelzahn's Will from Shadowrun was like that. Of course, the rest was such a massive pile of assorted gambits that it basically turned the megacorporate Status Quo inside out, caused a war or two and may have ended up saving the world.

Western Animation
  • There's a Futurama episode where Bender is left a haunted castle on the condition that he spend one night in it. The will also contains the clause 'To my loyal butler, You There, for his decades of service, I leave a pittance, to be paid in twenty equal instalments of one-twentieth of a pittance each.'

Real Life

  • Charles Vance Millar, Canadian Lawyer. His will included things such as:
    • Giving three men known to despise each other lifetime tenacy together in his house in Jamacia
    • Giving three known anti-horse-racing advocates $25,000 worth of Ontario Jocky club stock
    • Saying that his estate was to be converted to cash ten years after his death and given to the woman that gave birth to the most children in that time. This became known as the "Great Stork Race."
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