Bob is dead. His potential heirs gather after his funeral. Who will inherit his possessions? The will is opened, but...there's no clear heir.
This trope occurs when the will of the deceased doesn't specify who will inherit their possessions, leaving it up to a game or a puzzle, so whoever is worthy can obtain the fortune. The puzzle can be a race, a mystery game with continuous hints or a number of things. May also be a Secret Test of Character
A common twist includes discovering that one of the potential heirs is the one who killed Bob. The winner usually ends up with an unexpected new fortune
Legal nitpick: Since Bob for this trope necessarily leaves a will, the "heirs" are technically "devisees" and "legatees": Bob's heirs
are those who stood to inherit had he died without
a will; devisees and legatees are persons named in the will receiving real property (land) or personal property (anything other than land) respectively. Often these are the same people as Bob's heirs, but often they are not.
May be a result of Inadequate Inheritor
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Anime & Manga
- Kami no Shizuku: The whole plot is basically the main character getting into a wine tasting contest with his adoptive brother to inherit his father's vast and valuable wine collection.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Ling and May, two potential successors to the throne of Xing (out of over a dozen others). All of them are searching for the best way to prove that they will be the best to succeed the throne, and these two decide to seek out the philosopher's stone in hopes of obtaining a method to give immortality to others.
- Scavenger Hunt: 1979 movie based on this premise. Milton Parker dies and leaves his fortune to the person or group of people that win his scavenger hunt. There is no motivation to make them become a family.
- Stardust: Before he dies, the king of Stormhold announces that his heir will be the one who manages to obtain a ruby he threw into the sky.
- An unofficial version would be that it seems to be something of a tradition for the princes to kill each other off, until only one remains. The king expressed some disappointment that his sons didn't manage it, suggesting that it wasn't just the case with them.
- The Hudsucker Proxy: The terms of Mr. Hudsucker's Lost Will And Testament state whoever becomes the first person to replace him as the CEO of Hudsucker Industries will inherit his shares of the company.
- In the interactive book The Dandee Diamond Mystery, the reader/protagonist's rich and eccentric uncle left the Dandee Diamond to the one who most deserves it. However, before the protagonist can figure out who deserves it the most, he must find the diamond, and the uncle's only clue in the will was talking to his parrot.
- In L. M. Montgomery's A Tangled Web, eccentric Aunt Becky willed that the name of the heir of a priceless heirloom will only be disclosed a year after her death. Because the will dropped a few hints that a unknown judge would be selecting the heir, the family members spent the rest of the year trying their best to live up to what Aunt Becky would have wanted in an attempt to win the heirloom.
- The Westing Game: Samuel W. Westing chose 16 people apparently at random as his heirs; the book opens with them summoned to hear the reading of the will. He leaves everything to the winner of the puzzle he calls The Westing Game. Who will win? That's the entire book.
- Edgar & Ellen: Augustus Nod, the founder of Nod's Limbs, willed his estate to whoever finds the original limbs of the statue erected to him.
- Most of the plot of Stardust comes from a set of heirs competing to inherit the throne. The expected method of succession isn't primogeniture, but for one son to murder all the others before his father dies. When this fails to happen the disappointed father sets them on a competitive quest to prove their worth.
- In Ready Player One, Halladay's contest for the OASIS can be considered one of these, though in a twist, the potential heirs are effectively everyone in the entire world. (Excluding those who are unable to use the OASIS, obviously.)
- In the Community episode "Digital Estate Planning", Pierce's father leaves his will in the form of a video game. Whoever wins the game gets the inheritance.
- In an episode of Married... with Children, Al Bundy's Uncle Stymie, the only male Bundy to be a success in life (Al credits this to the fact that Stymie was the only one who never married), left his $500,000 estate to the first male Bundy to have a legitimate son named after him. Considering that the lawyer who read the will would later marry a male Bundy and give birth to Stymie Junior to get the money, Al and the other Bundys didn't get the money, even though they could have challenged the will under claims of undue influence.
- Something similar happened in "Love and the Baby Derby", a episode of Love American Style. The brothers learn, at their uncle's funeral, that the first one to marry and have a son will inherit. Then the uncle rises from the coffin: he'd faked his death, 'cuz he's such a funny guy, but he was serious about the "baby derby". Given his sense of humor, its not surprising that after both brothers do father children, the uncle reveals that he himself had married and had a son, so the money stayed with him. (He tells the brothers that their new families are the "real" wealth. Their response: "Wanna trade?")
- The series The Goodwin Games (premiering on Fox in the 2012-13 midseason) is about three heirs competing for their father's inheritance, making it similar to The Westing Game.
- In Rocket Age some Martian Principalities determine succession through Royal Karn Chariot Races. Some principalities use ceremonial duels to determine succession, a fact exploited by Danny Hatfield to gain control of J'lkarine.
- Professor Layton and the Curious Village uses this trope as its main plotline. Layton and Luke have to find the Golden Apple in order to inherit the late Baron Reinhold's wealth.
- In the video game Safecracker, a millionaire hides his will in a house full of bizarre safes, every one of which must be unlocked to access the document. When found, the document leaves it up to whoever successfully cracks the safes to decide who gets his fortune.
- Umineko no Naku Koro ni: The successor to the Ushiromiya family's headship and fortune (which includes 10 tons of solid gold) seemed to be locked and set—and then a letter from the resident witch arrived, announcing that the spoils have been made fair game to anyone who can solve the Witch's Epitaph, a long riddle which incidentally, details a ritual requiring human sacrifice. Mind games (and lots and lots of murder) ensue.
- In chargesdotcomdotbr web series "Só Levando", there was a season where Michael Jackson Expy "Miguel Jackson" died and wrote a will leaving one million dollars to one child from each nation. One of the main characters of that series is a boy named Johan, who, as his name suggests, is a German. However, he was adopted by a Brazilian family after his birth parents were killed during a police raid. Johan's foster parents entered a game show held to decide which Brazilian child would get the money. Johan won. However, because his foster parents never went through the proper channels to adopt him, he still was, for all legal intents and purposes, German, disqualifying him.
- In one story arc on The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show, a will specified that the deceased's "million-dollar note" would go to whoever had a foot bearing a certain name on it—which turned out to be Bullwinkle. Except that to claim the money, he had to spend the night in the owner's mansion (with the owner's sons making various attempts to get him out of the building). Rocky and Bullwinkle succeed, but then it's revealed that Bullwinkle's foot no longer bears the mark, because apparently it was just an imprint from his shower mat. So the million-dollar note goes to the sons. BUT! It turns out to be a promissory note, placing the sons in a $1 million debt, while Bullwinkle gets to go home to the happy status quo (telling Rocky that although that mark on his foot was just a temporary imprint, the mark on his other foot "never comes off").
- Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?: Carmen's will placed her main henchpeople and the main detectives on a scavenger hunt to decide who's fit to inherit her place as head of VILE.
- 101 Dalmatians: During a Family reunion, Malevola DeVil announced she'd bequeath her whole estate to the relative who takes Dearly Farm for her. Since nobody won the "game", see Insurrectionist Inheritor to learn who got the inheritance.
- Diana Dors (1931-1984), English actress and sex symbol, was said to have put away 2 million British pounds in banks across Europe for safekeeping. Her son and heir Mark Dawson was then given a code that would lead him to the inheritance. Her widower Alan Lake had the key that would solve the code, but ended up killing himself five months after Dors died. Unlike the above examples, the money has yet to be found in spite of the heir's best efforts, use of professional cryptographers, and even a TV documentary.