Created By: OreochanOctober 17, 2012 Last Edited By: OreochanNovember 10, 2012
Troped

Silly Will

A will that contains nonsensical bequests and other weird oddities you wouldn't find in most wills.

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Page Type:
Trope

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."
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • October 17, 2012
    lexicon
    • 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.
  • October 17, 2012
    JonnyB
    Comedy
    • "Last Will and Temperament" (also known as "Boot to the Head" or "Mr. Muldoon's Will") by The Frantics.
  • October 17, 2012
    Rotpar
    To elaborate on the above: the reading of the will is an excuse to beat up the inheritors with a boot to the head.

    • 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.
  • October 18, 2012
    MattStriker
    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.
  • October 18, 2012
    Chabal2
    A Sherlock Holmes parody has a man come to him for aid: his uncle's will stipulates that he won't inherit anything unless he makes it to his Indian tea plantation in a set amount of time. He could manage that on his own, but the rival Chinese tea company owner has heard of it, and is determined to kidnap him to remove the competition. On completing the task, the uncle shows up, only to have a heart attack and reveal the real will, in which the nephew must go back to England, join the circus, and perform before Queen Victoria.

  • October 18, 2012
    saintdane05
    I do believe that The Frantics "Last Will and Testament" should be the page quote.
  • October 18, 2012
    TheHandle
    ^Seconded.
  • October 18, 2012
    TBeholder
    Bedlam Bequest?
  • October 18, 2012
    Prfnoff
    The inclusion of Brewsters Millions (any adaptation) would suggest that this is a supertrope of On One Condition.
  • October 18, 2012
    lilliterra
    In The Westing Game, the will of Samuel Westing required that 12 people be brought together into a hotel to solve his murder.
  • October 18, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^ The Westing Game wasn't silly though. It was very serious. We're going to do a less silly trope for Wills that have the holder go on an adventure to get the inheritance.
  • October 18, 2012
    surgoshan
    • 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.
  • October 19, 2012
    Tallens
  • October 19, 2012
    Omeganian
    Common enough in Harry Potter fanfics.
  • October 19, 2012
    Chabal2
    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 theplot, however, requires that the wizards play football (they're not required to win, but try getting Archchancellor Ridcully to understand that).
  • October 19, 2012
    Lorialet
    • It happens for the series Once Upon A Time : the Genie just knows that his will will backfire, but makes it anyway. He ends up trapped in a mirror. The one who posesses it is Snow White's stepmother.
  • October 19, 2012
    shimaspawn
    ^ I think you posted this on the wrong YKTTW. That has nothing to do with Wills. That's a wish.
  • October 21, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Willy Nilly?

    Also,
    • 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.
  • October 21, 2012
    Oreochan
    ^ That title wouldn't work at all, since it's unclear.
  • October 22, 2012
    CharacterInWhite
    • 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.
  • October 23, 2012
    robinjohnson
    ^ Don't know if it belongs in the trope, but that has happened at least once in real life - the Royal Shakespeare Company has the skull of a former actor as a prop, which they had to get all sorts of special permission to use.
  • October 23, 2012
    Tallens
    ^Was there anything about it in his will? Otherwise I don't think it fits here.
  • October 23, 2012
    Arivne
    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.
  • October 23, 2012
    robinjohnson
    ^^ Yes, he willed his skull to the RSC so that he could "play" Yorick in Hamlet. (I was wrong, though: it wasn't an actor, it was the pianist Andre Tchaikowsky.) He remained in the role for four months until the story got out, then the RSC stopped using the real skull as it was deemed "distracting" due to the media attention. Here's a BBC news story about it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/7749962.stm

    Something like Willful Misconduct? There's got to be a punny title in there somewhere.
  • October 25, 2012
    Generality
    I don't know if this is "silly" enough:

    • 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.
  • October 26, 2012
    DracMonster
    Last Will Last Laugh? Though that sounds like a revenge trope.

    Or maybe Last Will And Testiness?

    Or actually Last Willful Misconduct might work too.
  • October 27, 2012
    robinjohnson
    I like Last Willful (or Wilful) Misconduct. (No particular preference on whether it's one or two l's in the middle of wilful; two is more punny I suppose, but we the 'last' highlights the pun already, so maybe it's not necessary.)
  • October 29, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    Not to confuse with Silly Will
  • October 30, 2012
    RoseBride
    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
  • November 3, 2012
    Outnuendo
    This stuff actually happens

    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."
  • November 3, 2012
    MrInitialMan
    In the case of Mr. Millar, seven prominent Toronto Protestant ministers and temperance advocates were to receive $700,000 worth of O'Keefe Brewery stock, a Catholic business, if they participated in its management and drew on its dividends.

    And how about this for a page quote: "This Will is necessarily uncommon and capricious because I have no dependents or near relations and no duty rests upon me to leave any property at my death and what I do leave is proof of my folly in gathering and retaining more than I required in my lifetime."

    Also, for the Great Stork Race--it resulted in a several-way tie, including two dubious winners (stillbirth for one, out of wedlock for the other). When the women got the money, they decided to be happy with it (it WAS the 1930s, after all. Any extra cash was welcome).

    Possible title: Bizarre Bequests
  • November 4, 2012
    cityofmist
    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.'
  • November 5, 2012
    Stripeycat
    ^many^ The Unseen Academicals examples: the foot-the-ball bequest is from a will, and a really good example, but the megapode incident is just normal UU tradition (and taking the mick out of a genuine Oxford oddity).
  • November 8, 2012
    robinjohnson
    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.

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