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Inheritance Backlash

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"Welcome home, such as it is. This squalid hamlet, these corrupted lands, they are yours now, and you are bound to them."
The Ancestor, Darkest Dungeon

Good news: your old and rarely-heard-from uncle died and left you an amazing old mansion in the countryside! There's one small detail that the will forgot to mention: it's infested by a fear-eating wraith that will prevent you from leaving the minute you walk through the door. And that shiny old medallion that your great aunt left to you is actually the home of a powerful demon, and the magnificent katana that you obtained from that old friend of yours is wanted by the Yakuza, and so on.

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This trope is usually played at the start of a story/arc as a justification for the plot, which usually revolves about the heir dealing with the unwanted side effects of their inheritance. Ghost-infested mansions are a frequent choice, but the "side effect" can also be mundane (e.g. the house has a severe infestation of cockroaches, spiders and centipedes). Sometimes it can also be played for laughs.

If the terrible task is required by the one giving the inheritance to obtain full possession of it, it's On One Condition. May overlap with Prestige Peril if the inheritance is a title or Hereditary Curse if it's a curse. May lead to Rejecting the Inheritance. A subtrope of Blessed with Suck. See also Will.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Cowboy Bebop, when Faye was revived out of cryostasis, a man named Whitney Haggis Matsumodo claimed to be responsible for rehabilitating her back into society. He does that, and charms her along the way. The truth is that he was a conman who faked his own death and left all his assets to Faye. As soon as she gave her thumbprint, she legally acquired millions of wulongs in debt. Her first reaction was Flipping the Table in rage.
    Faye: You gotta be KIDDING ME!
  • In Pokémon, James' parents want James to get married to this yandere woman named Jessiebelle simply for inheritance-related reasons. James understandably backs out of this due to how crazy Jesiebelle is.

    Comic Books 
  • There's a Daisy's Diary comic where Daisy gets an inheritance from a prince she once interviewed. However, the deceased prince had a lot of debts, and the palace was mortgaged. Donald find out that the prince faked his death, and intended to escape with the family jewels while Daisy inherited his debts.

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • In L'armata Brancaleone (or for English speakers: "The Incredible Army of Brancaleone"), the titular character manages to inherit his own citadel just in time to have to protect it from some Saracen raiders.
  • In Thir13en Ghosts, a man in financial trouble inherits a sprawling countryside mansion from his uncle, but the whole building is designed as a prison for deadly ghosts, and once he moves in, his uncle's sinister plan begins to unravel.
  • This is how Young Frankenstein starts out. Fredrick Frankenstein is the chosen inheritor of his great-grandfather, and in order to satisfy the will, he must travel to Transylvania and visit the family castle at least once, which ultimately forces him to face his family legacy. This plot element may be difficult to glean, however, as the scenes laying out the details were all deleted from the final film.
  • Respected restaurateur Ernie Smuntz inherits a box of very old cigars from his departed father, Rudolph Smuntz in Dreamworks' 1997 comedy Mousehunt. Ernie takes the cigar box to his restaurant, where he leaves it at the back of the kitchen. A huge cockroach escapes from the unguarded cigar box, and turns up during the Mayor's meal. This fiasco ruins Ernie's reputation, condemns his restaurant and leaves him destitute.
  • In one The Three Stooges short Curly inherits from a long lost uncle, but after Inheritance Tax and other fees he ends up owing money.
  • In Casper, the Whipstaff Manor where Casper and his uncles reside is inherited by Carrigan Crittenden following her father's death. She's not happy about until she learns about a treasure within. Her seeking out this treasure would ultimately lead to her own karmic death.

    Literature 
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon finds out that his precious sword Zar'roc, left to him by his master and father Brom is actually the sword of Morzan, an evil Dragon Rider who served Galbatorix.
  • Inverted in Labyrinths of Echo when Shurf receives a bequest from a distant relative of his wife. He immediately deduces that the whole thing is fishy and that he was only mentioned in the will in order to set things right, find the proper heir, and hand the inheritance over to him.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • The heir to the Baskerville estate in The Hound Of The Baskervilles fears he might also have inherited the curse which causes him to be stalked by the eponymous creature. It's actually a large dog, trained by a nearby distant relative who wants to kill him and claim the estate.
    • In The Five Orange Pips, a guy receives a mansion from his uncle, but soon he's sent death threats from the KKK because his uncle had some papers incriminating them (unknowingly, these papers had been burnt long ago). Also note that Watson, nor the guy's nephew had any clue as to what the KKK was. Adding to the KKK's mystique is the fact that they're able to murder someone and make it look like an accident. Three people actually, and Sherlock and the Nephew are the only ones to see anything suspicious.
  • In Skulduggery Pleasant, the series kicks off with our heroine's uncle dying. He leaves her his house, which nearly gets our poor girl killed. Several times.
  • The Lord of the Rings begins with Bilbo, the discoverer of a magical invisibility ring, reluctantly letting his heir Frodo inherit it so he can retire to Rivendell. A few decades later, Gandalf belatedly reveals to Frodo that it's the One Ring, Soul Jar of the Dark Lord Sauron's vast evil power and greatest threat to Middle-earth. And now it's Frodo's job to sneak it out of the country...
  • In Reaper Man Arthur Winkins great uncle left him an old crumbling castle in Überwald, the title of Count, and a nasty case of vampirism. First time anyone was ever turned undead by a lawyer's missive. His wife, Doreen, has embraced it, but Arthur finds it more a nuisance to a small businessman in the fruit and veg trade.
  • In Making Money, Moist receives Topsy Lavish's dog Mr. Fusspot as part of her will - and it turns out Mr. Fusspot owns 51% of the family bank's shares. Since Moist is his owner, he is now Chairman of the bank (on behalf of Mr. Fusspot, naturally), which prompts the other members of Ms. Lavish's family to try and ruin him to get their bank back.
    • It's worth noting that they target Moist exclusively. Mr. Fusspot can't be eliminated because every assassin in the city thinks being hired to kill a small dog is degrading.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: Harrenhal Castle served as this for many generations of inheritors, capable of driving entire noble families into poverty and extinction with the prohibitive cost of its maintenance and a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane cursed reputation.
  • Blake Thorburn, the viewpoint protagonist of Pact, inherits the Thorburn mansion from his grandmother after the murder of his cousin, only to learn that she was a diabolist practitioner (Someone who trafficks with demon) and nearly everyone in Jacob's Bell is out to kill him because of it.
  • Shirley Jackson 's titular real estate in The Haunting of Hill House (and its film adaptations) will, eventually, be inherited by Luke Sanderson. Of course, in the first film, he develops the opinion that the house "ought to be burned down and the ground sown with salt", so he may wind up Rejecting the Inheritance in spades.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Justified Dickie Bennett inherits all the money his mother earned during her long and prosperous criminal career. However, he is in prison and cannot just get the money and leave the state. Some very dangerous people know about the money and want it for themselves. Dickie knows that once he gives up the money, he will be killed. To add insult to injury only a fraction of the money remains after his mother set up a land deal that Dickie was cut out of.
  • Grimm: Nick's inheritance from his aunt is all the stuff he needs to fight the monsters of lore. It's not that his inheritance is evil, but it is a nasty surprise as he thought he was just normal and not a supernaturally gifted fighter.
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959), Barbara inherits a robot with the exact personality of her hated "Uncle Simon", and she only gets his wealth if she takes care of it.
  • In the Revival series of Route 66 the protagonist inherits his estranged father's car and a few other possessions; after selling off the possessions (but not the car) he still owes money to his father's executor and the feds.
  • Zig-Zagged on NYPD Blue: PAA John Irvin's father dies and he is visited by the lawyer handling the estate. The lawyer tells him that there are various taxes, fees, and unpaid bills to be paid off from the estate, which John takes to mean that it will use up any inheritance and he'll have to pay some in addition. But no, after paying everything John and his sister will inherit roughly $800,000. Each.
  • In an episode of Supernatural, Sam and Dean get a call that Bobby has received an inheritance from an old friend. However, Bobby has already died so Sam and Dean go as his proxies. The inheritance turns out to be guardianship of a murderous shifter whose mother knew Bobby was a hunter and hoped he would be able to control the shifter.
  • In Happy!, Mikey Scaramucci is targeted for kidnapping because his uncle Blue thinks that he inherited an extremely valuable password that would give him access to his family's vast fortune. In reality, what Mikey inherited was a demonic entity named Orcus, who's been bonded to the Scaramucci family for centuries, and when it finally passes to Blue after Mikey's death, it drives him insane.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Classic Traveller Adventure 13 Secret of the Ancients. Trow Beckett receives a statuette in his father's will. Shortly thereafter he's attacked by thugs who are after the statuette and then approached by Imperial agents who want to confiscate it.
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "Black Devil Mountain". A PC receives some property as a bequest from their recently deceased brother. It turns out to be near the site of some extremely nasty Cthulhu Mythos activity.
    • It's also a staple of Call of Cthulhu published adventures, to the point that Genre Savvy players, if they inherit an old house, will not go there until they've stocked up on the blowtorch fuel.
  • There's a Monopoly chance card from the City versions that tells you you've inherited a remaining property from the bank — you just have to pay them the Inheritance Tax. Depending on the property you end up with, it could be considered a bargain (even with this version's properly enforced chance to auction properties for lower prices), but can also be over the board cost.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeon magazine #26 Forgotten Realms adventure "The Inheritance". One of the PCs has inherited a small keep (castle) from his late uncle. The problem: he has only thirty days to travel there, clean out all of the monsters inside, and return to the city of Waterdeep to prove his deed or his inheritance will be lost. The opposition includes a tribe of hobgoblins, a dangerous carnivorous ape with red eyes, and a ghoul.

    Video Games 
  • Darkest Dungeon begins with the player inheriting their (now cursed) family estate after the death (by self-inflicted gunshot) of their antecedent. They must now send parties of (likely doomed) adventurers deep into the ruins in order to uncover the truth and redeem their lineage. Oh, said family estate is also the home of an Eldritch Abomination that was sealed away until said Ancestor set it loose out of curiosity.

    Web Comics 
  • Pip in Sequential Art inherited a puzzle-box from his career criminal uncle. There was a little problem with it, of course... just see the next page.
  • Ugly Hill: After Grandpa Killgore dies, it's revealed that his will, which his two adult children had spent most of their lives using as a weapon against eachother and their own families, leaves them 500.000$ in credit card debts. He did also leave his son his house, but even if he sold that it wouldn't come close to paying off his half of the debt

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "The Honking", where Bender the robot inherits a creepy old castle in Robo-Hungaria, on the condition that he spends at least one night in the castle. The castle comes complete with holographic ghosts and a computer virus that turns the target robot into a were-car. The were-car that runs Bender over isn't in the castle, but is in the village outside of the castle. Bender gets run over when running away from one of the ghosts in the castle.
  • The Scooby-Doo episode "A Night of Fright Is No Delight", in which Scooby Doo is named in a wealthy man's will, but he must spend a night in a haunted house as a condition of receiving his share of the estate. After capturing the Monster of the Week, Scooby gets the entire estate (as the MotW had scared everyone else and said Monster was one of them), but it turns out that it was nothing but "worthless" Confederacy money.
  • The 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon "The Wabbit Who Came To Supper" has Elmer Fudd inherit $3 million from his Uncle Louie. After a $2 million Inheritance Tax, plus other taxes, liens and attorney fees, Elmer owes $1.98. "Please remit!?"
  • The 1944 Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Million Dollar Cat" has Tom inherit $1 million from Aunt Harriet, provided that Tom never harm any living thing, "even a mouse." Jerry, of course, torments Tom beyond all feline endurance.
  • There was an episode of Popeye that involves him finding his old relative's treasure chest. Upon opening it, it doesn't contain any riches - it contains IOU instead.
  • An episode of TaleSpin had Baloo inherit a mansion suspected of being haunted. It ultimately isn't, but Baloo also inherited the relative's debt and has to give up the mansion to pay it.
  • A Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Joker's Millions", has the Joker inheriting money from a deceased mob boss who was thought to hate him. Turns out this is true, and with the money (most of which turned out to be counterfeit) came IRS attention that Joker could have dealt with, but by the time he's told of this he's already blown most of the real cash, as the mob boss expected he would. The Joker is stuck with the choice of either admitting he got conned or figuring out a way to steal enough money to pay his new debts without alerting anyone that he's committing crimes again.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Doof inherits a castle from a relative and it is delivered to Danville brick by brick. While Vanessa holds a Halloween party, Perry assists Doof in sorting out the scavenger hunt will. He ends up inheriting a fortune... And then having to pay off several government officials. He ends up broke again except for the mansion.
  • Zigzagged in the Martha Speaks episode "Martha Gets Spooked". Mr. and Mrs. Parkington and their dog John get a house left to them by Mrs. Parkington's dead relative, whose name happens to be Martha, so when she hears Martha introduce herself, she thinks the late Martha is haunting the house. Later, a photo of the house shows something that might be a ghost in the background, but it's probably lens flare.
  • Nate Is Late episode "The Haunted House" has Nate and Malika deliver a letter to what seems to be an abandoned building. But once they go in, it locks them in and they find a man inside who tells them he inherited the house from his deceased aunt and got trapped by the house himself. After a bit they find that the house just wished to be cleaned after years of gathering dust and they manage to stop it's hauntings by doing so. Good timing too as the city was set to tear it down right on that very day. The man convinces the construction crew there no need as he decides he'll keep the house as intended.
  • An episode of American Dad! had Klaus find he had gained an inheritance but since he was now stuck in the body of a fish, he had Roger claim he was him to gain it. Turns out however it was just a trap to lure him out as Klaus had enemies who were looking for him.
  • Garfield and Friends: In "The Curse of Klopman", Garfield inherits the Klopman Diamond (a series Running Gag in and of itself) which is worth a fortune. Unfortunately the gem is cursed so something extremely bad happens to Garfield every few minutes until he reaches his breaking point and sells it. In the end he only makes enough money off the sale to pay for all the damage the curse caused so the whole thing is basically a wash.

    Real Life 
  • A man who hated his estranged wife willed her a single shilling so she could go somewhere and drown herself. The inheritance went unclaimed.
  • Willing people tiny amounts of money or other such trivial items is more common than you might think. In some jurisdictions, a person not mentioned in the will (especially a direct relation like an estranged child) can make a legal case the deceased forgot to include them, leading to messy disputes over what share they "should" have gotten. Willing such a person a negligible sum (like a single dollar or one postage stamp of a collection) is proof they were remembered and left out on purpose. While this does tend to cause this trope, the point of the exercise is removing their ability to do anything about it.
  • Charles Vance Millar had a will that mostly comprised of practical jokes, such as willing his shares in a horse-racing venture to anti-gambling crusaders, willing equal shares of a lavish vacation home to two men who couldn't stand one another, and willing some militant Protestant temperance advocates his shares of a Catholic-owned brewery. Some of his "heirs" went to court to try and get out of their inheritance.


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