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Inheritance Murder

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Professor Farnsworth: That's why I've made you my sole heir. The day I die, you'll be a very wealthy woman. Oh my, yes. Incredibly wealthy. The day I die. Because you're so unimpulsive.
Leela: [kicks him into a pit of deadly animals]

Sometimes, the prospect of legally inheriting something can prompt the heir to speed up the process by way of murder.

Often, the heirs are just impatient for wealth or power — they want it now, not eventually, and see no reason to wait (or have a pressing need for money and can't wait). Other times, they're worried that an inheritance which they're currently in line for will be changed to leave them nothing — if they don't inherit quickly, it might be too late.

Typically, inheriting will require a will, so tropes relating to that are often in play. A variant is for the murderer to be not the beneficiary of inheritance but the person who'd administer it, which may let them get their hands on it just as well.

Most jurisdictions have laws that prevent a murderer from inheriting anything from the victim's estate (in the US, this is called the Slayer rule), so not getting caught is essential to making it work. As such, the trope has often been the basis of murder mysteries, especially historically, although it's now becoming something of a Discredited Trope; it's rare to find a murder mystery where the inheritor actually turns out to be the murderer, although it's very common nowadays to find it at least Subverted with the inheritor being a prime suspect who turns out to be innocent.

Tontines are famous for causing this to happen, to the point where they seldom show up in fiction otherwise. Sometimes comes in a combo with Forging the Will, with the murderer both fabricating a claim to inherit and triggering the inheritance. A Black Widow may be a specialized user of this trope, combining it with being a Gold Digger (although that doesn't necessarily involve inheritance so much as becoming joint owner of everything before the murder).

A subtrope of Murder in the Family. Compare Insurance-Motivated Murder, a different way to benefit from offing your nearest and dearest; The Evil Prince, if the inheritance the person is after is their father's throne; and Only Cares About Inheritance, if a character comes to someone's funeral and/or deathbed in hopes of getting an inheritance.

Since this is a Death Trope, there will be unmarked spoilers.



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     Anime & Manga 
  • Jojo's Bizarre Adventure
    • In Phantom Blood, Dio Brando, who was adopted into the Joestar family, attempted to slowly poison and murder his adoptive father, George Joestar, in order to steal his inheritance away from Jonathan. Fortunately for the Joestar family, Dio was found out, although not before he transcended humanity and swore himself to be Jojo's greatest enemy.
    • The alternate universe counterpart of Dio from Steel Ball Run, Diego Brando, did something rather similar — marrying an old rich woman and then (presumably) offing her in order to secure her fortune. Unlike Dio, Diego apparently got away with this with no real negative impact on his career.
  • In One Piece, pirate captain Kuro comes up with an elaborate plan to steal a wealthy orphan's fortune: get himself hired as her butler, work for several years ingratiating himself to her and the townsfolk, have his hypnotist buddy make her write a will leaving him everything, then summon his crew to attack the village and make sure she's an unfortunate casualty.
  • In Shi ni Aruki, one of the theories proposed by those who believe the deaths in the Kurosu family are planned murders is this, as the first death was the elderly and rich patriarch. The detectives suspect protagonist Tokiko, since she is the only one not mourning his death, while a reporter thinks it might be Tokiko's niece Rina. Ultimately, many of these deaths were (potentially supernatural) accidents, and while it is revealed in the final volume that Tokiko did somewhat plan her father's death, it wasn't motivated at all by a desire to inherit the family estate.

     Comic Books 
  • Lucky Luke: The Inheritance of Rantanplan has the guard dog Rantanplan inherit a fortune from a former convict, who also decided to make Joe Dalton next in line. The Dalton brothers promptly escape and Luke spends most of the book protecting Rantanplan from murder attempts, until the former convict is found still alive.
  • Violine: Muller and Marushka have Francois' parents murdered by the doctor to get the house from Francois. This puts Francois and his daughter Violine as the last persons standing in their way.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1942): A story in Issue #43 features a villain planning to kill his relatives for their family's fortune.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Right before being hired by Julianna Sazia Poison Ivy was wheedling her way into an eccentric billionaire's will by acting as his mistress, with the act doubling as a way to hide her identity from the cops. She runs out of patience and kills him when Sazia contacts her, telling him as he dies that she'd been planning on killing him after he put her in her will but he was taking too long and she had a new opportunity to make a buck land in her lap.
  • This is the core plot of Ziggy Pig - Silly Seal Comics. Ziggy Pig sees his trip with Silly Seal to Latveria as an opportunity to have Silly killed so Ziggy can inherit his fortune.

  • Limpet AU: Discussed for laughs in "How To Succeed Without Even Trying". Luke asks Vader if he has a will, and, when Vader asks why he wants to know, Luke flippantly mentions that Leia's cutting his funding for the Jedi Academy, so he's planning to kill Vader to get his inheritance.
  • My Hero Academia: Unchained Predator: When reviewing Curator's past, the Slayer sees that he staged a traffic accident to claim his family fortune when he was passed on by his younger, more successful brother. When he was found out to have murdered his family, he used his Quirk to kill several cops and a Pro Hero before being detained. He disappeared upon transport, leading the Slayer to believe All for One busted Curator out and made a mental note to deliver a Cruel and Unusual Death to Curator.

     Film — Animated 
  • Lucky Luke: Ballad of the Daltons: Henry Dalton's nephews Joe, William, Jack, and Averell will inherit his fortune if they kill the judge and the jury who sentenced him to death by hanging.
  • Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats: Attempted by Snerdly, who keeps trying to kill Benny so he'll inherit instead. Also subverted by the fact that he simply arranged for Amy Vandergelt (who was first in line, ahead of Benny) to be kept away from the mansion and unaware of her aunt's death, rather than trying to kill her, and later on he resorts to simply keeping Benny away from the mansion until the time limit is past, which comes far closer to succeeding than any of his other attempts.
    Top Cat: Ah, Beverly Hills. When they try to terminate ya, they do it with class.

     Films — Live-Action 
  • 8 Women: Marcel's fortune and who inherits it is brought up as a possible motive for the murderer. The main reason Gaby is suspected is that she's the inheritor. She didn't do it, though.
  • The Candy Snatchers contains an indirect example — Candy's Wicked Stepfather Avery never makes any direct attempts on her life, but when she's kidnapped and held for ransom, he's happy to let her get murdered so he can inherit her mother's fortune.
  • El miedo no anda en burro ("Fear Doesn't Ride a Donkey"), starring "la India Maria," has this as its central plot. When the matriarch of a wealthy family dies, her greedy relatives kick out Maria, who had been working as a maid, and was the matriarch's only friend, and they forced her to take the old lady's beloved little dog with her. At the will reading, the lawyer states that the matriarch's estate and money will go to her dog, and Maria will act as its regent, leaving the relatives with nothing. The rest of the movie centers on the relatives trying to scare Maria to death so that they can get hold of the dog.
  • The first half of HEX, a Shaw Brothers horror-mystery film, is driven by Leung Chun-yu, the Villain Protagonist Gold Digger's attempts to arrange for his wife's death - by faking his own (with some help from the wife's alleged close friend who turns out to be in cahoots with Chun-yu), and pretending to come back as a "ghost" to haunt her until she dies of shock. With the wife out of the way, Chun-yu, being the last surviving member of the family, is free to claim the wife's inheritance, a vault filled with priceless jade artifacts.
  • Killers of the Flower Moon. Under the law you can't buy Osage headrights (the rights to the oil under their land) but you can inherit it. William Hale arranges for male relatives to marry the daughters of Lizzie Q, then arranges to have the daughters murdered to ensure that their fortunes would be inherited by his family upon Lizzie's death. Sadly Truth in Television; the film is an adaptation of a nonfiction book of the same title about the murders of dozens if not hundreds of Osage as part of a scheme to steal the Native American nation's newfound oil wealth.
  • Knives Out double-subverts this. Marta didn't kill Harlan for the inheritance, because she didn't know about it and thinks she committed Accidental Murder, but there is an inheritance murderer: Ransom, who did know Marta was set to inherit and switched the drugs so that she'd be disqualified. Except that Marta actually switched the drugs back and Harlan wouldn't have died if he hadn't killed himself.
  • Lost in Alaska:
    • It turns out several of Joe's friends back in Alaska were in his will, and are trying to kill him to get their share of the gold he'd found.
    • Variant with Rosette's boss Jake Stillman, who wants her to marry Joe so Jake can kill him, letting Rosette inherit his gold and then, as her partner, he can claim half of it for himself.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999): This is the motive behind the murders — Lady Van Tassel seeks to claim the Van Garrett and Van Tassel estates by having the Headless Horseman kill all of Van Garrett's other potential heirs (starting with his secret wife and unborn child, which cleared the way for her husband — Baltus Van Tassel, a relative of Van Garrett — to inherit), all in the name of revenge on Van Garrett for his actions against her family in her youth.
  • Ten Little Mistresses: Lilith posits that one of the mistresses may have slain Don Valentin because each mistress is due to receive Php 200,000,000 (roughly 3.7 million USD) upon his death. Constantin reminds her that he had recently amended his will to leave everything to Lilith, and so she actually stands to gain the most from his death.
  • A Woman's Face: Torsten was to inherit his uncle's fortune, but then Lars-Erik was born. His plan is to kill him, make it look like an accident, and he wants Anna to do it for him.

  • Turns up a lot in the works of Agatha Christie.
    • In The ABC Murders, the main murder is this trope; the others are just a coverup for the motive.
    • One of the unpunished crimes of the victims in And Then There Were None was a governess who tricked her charge into getting himself killed so that the boy's inheritance would go to his uncle, her lover. The uncle was not part of the plot and genuinely loved his nephew, and dumped the governess in horror after he realized what she'd done.
    • In "The Cornish Mystery", the villain's plot is to poison a woman and frame her husband for it, eliminating them both and letting their niece (his fiancée) inherit from them.
    • In "Dead Man's Mirror", it's done on behalf of someone else without the beneficiary knowing. The murder victim was threatening to change his will unless his heir married a certain person, but she had secretly married someone else already. Her mother committed the murder so that the inheritance would go through before a showdown could occur.
    • In "How Does Your Garden Grow?", this is suspected twice after an elderly woman dies of poisoning. The first suspects are her relatives (who are presumed to be heirs), but suspicion then shifts to her young nurse-companion (who actually is the heir). It turns out that the relatives are guilty, not because they expected to inherit but because if the nurse did, she would learn (and reveal) that the relatives had already helped themselves to a lot of the money while the victim was alive.
    • In "Wireless", an old woman asks her nephew for help with installing a radio. He's happy to help, setting it up himself, but later she's visited by ghostly voices. Thinking they're of her dead husband, she believes she's going to die soon and writes up a new will where she leaves everything to the nephew (cutting out another relative, who it's implied didn't really do anything to deserve it other than being a modern-moraled woman). She sits in front of the fireplace with the will in hand, hears the voices, and on seeing the specter of her husband in front of her, dies of shock (and lets go of the will, which ends up in the fireplace). The specter then removes its disguise to reveal the nephew, who also removes the equipment he'd used to fake the ghost voices. However, karma bites him as it turns out she hadn't validated the new will (the nephew suddenly remembers a sheet of paper drifting into the fireplace...), so the other girl still gets everything, and just to twist the knife, the doctor says she wouldn't have lasted much longer anyway.
    • In "The Lemesurier Inheritance", there's an alleged Hereditary Curse that gradually eliminates heirs to the Lemesurier estate until Poirot finds out that it's actually the new heir who has been doing it. (The heir has now found that Murder Makes You Crazy and is trying to off his own heir as the curse demands.)
    • In Dumb Witness, a woman changes her will after thinking that she's the target of this, leaving everything to a non-relative. She's right, and the person who did it makes a successful second attempt, not knowing that the changed will makes it pointless.
    • A convoluted take on it in A Murder Is Announced: Initially it appears that the apparent intended victim was murdered to claim a fortune she had just inherited. It is revealed in the end that the actual murderer has no intention of killing the person whose death would bring the heir the inheritance immediately, but is entirely prepared — if reluctantly — to kill people endangering the secret that the real legatee died of natural causes long ago and she's been impersonating her ever since.
    • In The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, suspicion quickly falls on Ralph Paton, Ackroyd's stepson, partly due to the fact that he'd inherit the bulk of the money and was in debt. It's also mentioned that almost everyone else in the story stood to inherit a bequest of some size from the Ackroyd estate, and some of them could have used the money as well.
    • In The Murder on the Links, the killer hopes to obtain the victim's fortune by marrying his son.
    • In Peril at End House, it gets complicated. A woman tells Poirot that she was secretly engaged to a rich guy who just died, and it seems that one of her own heirs is trying to kill her to get the money he left her. Later, when she's pretending to be dead, someone who wasn't a prime suspect Forges the Will, drawing suspicion on themselves... but actually, opportunistic forgery is all they're guilty of. Then it turns out that the alleged victim was faking the whole thing as cover for murdering and impersonating her same-named cousin, who is the real heir of the dead guy's money, not her. In other words, someone is pretending to be subject to this trope in order to carry it out themselves.
    • In Sad Cypress, the obvious suspect for murdering a wealthy old woman is her niece, who is worried that she's about to get cut out of the will in favor of someone else (who is also a romantic rival... and who ends up dead too). It turns out that both murders were part of a two-stage version of this trope, having been committed by someone who secretly stood to inherit the first victim's money by way of the second victim.
    • "The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb" has a young lord murdered, supposedly by an Egyptian curse. It's actually by the expedition's doctor, who was friends with him years earlier when he jokingly made a will leaving the doctor as his heir (as he stated his actual assets would likely be limited to a cigarette case and bar tabs). When the lord's rich and only relative dies, the doctor realizes there's a fortune to be made and strikes. Shame Hercule Poirot was there...
    • Death on the Nile has the primary murder be a mix of this and Murder the Hypotenuse - the victim is killed by her husband and his lover so they can have each other and her money.
  • Blackmail and Bibingka: It's stated early on that the victim was married to an older man who left everything to her, telling his children that they should work for a change. There's a clause in the will that says that the patriarch's assets will default to his children if his wife dies without an heir, giving one of the twins the motive to kill her before she gets remarried.
  • The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries:
    • Discussed more than once, as the first two books (and Ladies #4) make mention of the fact that in Mississippi, murderers aren't allowed to profit from their crimes, so killing someone they were supposed to inherit from automatically makes them ineligible to inherit.
    • A variant happens in book 1 when Godfrey Priest has added his supposed son Justin Wardlaw to his will, but soon figures out that Justin is actually his nephew. It's not Justin himself, but rather Justin's mother who kills Godfrey to ensure that he can't change his will again in light of this discovery. It's never confirmed in later books if Justin got his inheritance after this, due to the above law.
    • In book 2, when James Delacorte turns up dead, it's suspected that the killer did so to speed up their inheritance. Turns out that's exactly the case. It's not a family member, as initially suspected, though — it's his butler and primary heir, Nigel Truesdale.
    • In Ladies #1, the victims are all killed to clear the way for the murderer to inherit, the first two because their portions revert to the estate that way and the last a straight-out inheritance murder.
    • In Ladies #4, the victim is again killed so the killer can get their hands on his money.
  • In The Big Over Easy, Lola Vavoom secretly married Humpty in order to gain possession of his Spongg footcare shares, which would become valuable once his scheme came to fruition. She then plotted to kill Humpty together with Lord Spongg.
    "All to wife."
    —Humpy's Will
  • The Cat Who... Series:
    • The motive for Hilary VanBrook's death in book #12 (The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal). The killer wanted to off him before he could change his will and disinherit his intended heir (who was merely an accomplice, but agrees to testify against the killer afterward) for dropping out of school. However, the killer acted too late, and the man's belongings and money all go to his new heir — the Pickax school system — instead.
    • In book #13 (The Cat Who Moved a Mountain), this was the motive for J.J. Hawkinfield's murder — his daughter had him killed so she could collect her inheritance.
    • In book #25 (The Cat Who Brought Down the House), this is effectively why Richard "Dick" Thackeray became a killer — first he pushed his own father to his death, and then intended to kill his aunt, who'd inherited all his father's liquid assets, after becoming her heir. Unfortunately for Dick, Thelma has already changed her will to disinherit him, and then shoots him dead for his crimes.
    • In book #28 (The Cat Who Dropped a Bombshell), Harvey Ledfield slips mold into the air vents of his aunt and uncle's home, triggering respiratory illnesses that eventually kill them, all to ensure he'll get their money to invest in a ski lodge he's wanting to fund. It comes out afterward that he wouldn't have gotten anything, as all their money goes to charitable groups.
  • In The Count of Monte Cristo, Valentine's maternal grandfather dies on the way to Paris, soon followed by her grandmother, making Valentine the heir (her mother died young and her father remarried). Then it turns out someone's been trying to poison her paternal grandfather, though fortunately, his Acquired Poison Immunity saves him. Due to the motives, the family doctor starts suspecting Valentine herself until she too is poisoned. It turns out it was her stepmother who wanted her own son to inherit both family's fortunes.
  • In Daddy's Little Girl, there are rumours that Rob Westerfield was secretly the mastermind behind the attempted murder of his grandmother in a supposed burglary gone wrong; Marcus Longo speculates he wanted more money to fuel his drug habit even though Dorothy was already giving him access to a trust fund. Ellie discovers evidence and a new witness that confirms Rob indeed tried this; although it's not enough to get him arrested, it convinces his grandmother and she promptly alters her will so Rob gets nothing.
  • Dante Valentine is a necromancer who offers consulting services on estate cases as one of her day jobs. She gets very cross with the attorney when she's hired only to discover when she channels the decedent that he was murdered by one of the heirs — she charges extra for murder cases.
  • In Dial-a-Ghost, Fulton and Frieda Snodde-Brittle attempt to hire ghosts who can scare their cousin Oliver badly enough to give him a fatal asthma attack so that they can inherit the Snodde-Brittle estate and family fortune. (Although they're willing to settle for the ghosts just driving him mad so they can institutionalize him and inherit that way.)
  • The Discworld book Making Money has shares which would control a bank being left to a dog, and there is, therefore, a legitimate concern that the people who would otherwise have gotten them will try to move the shares on by killing the dog.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers:
    • In Unnatural Death, when Agatha Dawson dies, Lord Peter immediately suspects her great-niece and heir, Mary Whittaker. It turns out that the Succession Act of 1925 means that Agatha Dawson's great-niece is no longer her heir by default, and she refused to make a proper will while she was alive; thus, Mary had a very good reason to want Agatha dead before the Act took effect.
    • In The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, elderly Lady Dormer left most of her money to her brother General Fentiman — or, if he was dead at the time of her death, to her companion Ann Dorland, and not to her brother's grandsons and heirs. Thus, those grandsons, Ann Dorland, and Ann Dorland's fiance, all have strong reasons to care which of the two of them dies first.
    • In Strong Poison, Harriet Vane is accused — and tried — for murdering her ex-lover Philip Boyes with arsenic. It turns out that his aunt Cremorna Garden had made a will leaving him a great deal of money. Norman Urquhart had "borrowed" her money without permission and then lost most of it, so he murdered Philip so that nobody would notice the missing fortune.
    • In Have His Carcase, Paul Alexis was murdered by his fiancee's son, who didn't want his mother leaving her money to a stepfather instead of to him.
    • In Busman's Honeymoon, William Noakes was murdered by his niece's suitor, Frank Crutchley, who meant to marry her for her inheritance.
  • The Han Solo Adventures: The Mole in Han Solo at Stars’ End does a variant of this. He tips off the Corporate Sector that his father and older brother are speaking against them, knowing this will get his relatives either killed or arrested and leave him in control of the family fortune. When they're merely sent to a prison facility, he attempts to sabotage efforts to rescue them.
  • Hannah Swensen:
    • It's revealed in Peach Cobbler Murder that Vanessa Quinn, after marrying the rich and elderly Neil Roper, manipulated him into making her his sole heir and later murdered him to get the money.
    • Discussed as a motive for murder in Apple Turnover Murder, but ultimately subverted. Bradford Ramsey had been married at least twice, and his first wife's parents were so impressed with him that they included him in their will, with his getting half of their money — several million dollars. They hadn't had the chance to write him back out after the divorce, and when they suddenly died in a car accident, their daughter would have had the perfect motivation to kill him and thus inherit everything. The subversion comes when it's revealed she was in the car with them and was in the hospital, being treated for a broken shoulder, when Bradford was subsequently murdered.
  • Jaine Austen Mysteries:
    • What the murder of This Pen for Hire was about, albeit not direct money. Cameron was going to kill Marion to inherit a photo of her in a frame, which in reality, had a photo of Cary Grant underneath it. The murder became pointless because a) the wrong person died and b) Marion was already dead at the time.
    • Also the case in Killer Blonde. SueEllen Kingsley was set to inherit $3 million from her Aunt Melanie. However, that money would go to her sister Carolee if SueEllen died first, so Carolee, AKA Conchi the maid, made that happen.
    • Happens again in Killing Bridezilla. There, Conrad Devane was hoping that Patti's death before the wedding would have her money revert back to her mother, which he could then put back into his developments. Unbeknownst to him, Patti and Dickie had already married earlier in Vegas, so the money actually goes to Dickie...or at least, it would if there was any money left...
  • In the Mary Russell novel A Letter of Mary, the murder victim planned to bestow her money to fund the continuation of her life's work, and was done in by a relative who wanted to keep it in the family.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes and Watson are both in the dark as to why Stapleton would want to murder Sir Henry and allow him to court his sister but not propose. Then Holmes sees a series of family portraits and it clicks: Stapleton is the descendant of the Black Sheep of the Baskerville family, who'd already murdered the previous tenant of Baskerville Hall and plans to inherit the property. Exactly how he plans to do this, given that he's been there several years under the Stapleton identity, is not directly answered, though Holmes gives a few possibilities at the end: Claim it from South America, go in another disguise, or even possibly via a third person posing as the heir (and had his wife act as his sister to further ensnare Sir Henry).
    • In "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder", Jonas Oldacre (the titular builder) leaves a surprise bequest to young lawyer John Hector McFarlane, who is suspected of Oldacre's murder soon after, supposedly to speed up the process of inheriting. It turns out Oldacre faked his death and framed McFarlane in revenge for McFarlane's mother rejecting Oldacre years before.
    • "The Speckled Band" has the victims' stepfather murder them so as not to lose the income they receive from their dead mother's investments.
    • In the non-canon story The Doctor's Case (written by Stephen King), the victim is murdered by his family shortly after he'd announced that he was disinheriting all of them out of spite, after which they destroy the new will. Holmes and Lestrade ultimately decide to conceal the evidence and let them claim the estate on the grounds that he was an Asshole Victim.
  • Occurs a lot in A Song of Ice and Fire.
    • Done by proxy in the fourth book. Bronn marries Lollys Stokeworth, second in line to inherit her mother's lands, incomes, and titles. When Lady Stokeworth dies, Bronn kills Lollys' brother-in-law and banishes her older sister Falysenote , making Lollys the new Lady Stokeworth. Though Bronn doesn't directly inherit anything, as Lollys' husband he controls her wealth.
    • It's obvious to everyone in the Iron Islands that Euron Greyjoy had a role to play in his older brother Balon's death. He's been in exile for two years and just happens to come home the day after Balon's body washes up on shore? The youngest Greyjoy brother Aeron tries to subvert this trope by calling a Kingsmoot, allowing the ironborn to choose their next king, but Euron double-subverts it by winning and become the new king anyway.note 
    • King Aerys the Mad suspected that his son and heir Prince Rhaegar had been plotting to kill him for power. There are hints that Rhaegar may have indeed wanted to remove his father from power, but nothing's certain.
    • It's commonly believed that Viserys II poisoned his nephew Baelor to acquire the Iron Throne, and was in turn poisoned by his own son Aegon IV for the very same reason only a year later. However, many people think Baelor died due to his excessive fasting... though it does seem in character for the notoriously selfish and cruel Aegon to have killed his father.
    • Gerold Lannister was accused of murdering his brother Tybolt and niece Cerelle in order to gain the lordship of Casterly Rock. It's uncertain if he actually did, however.
    • Hagon Hoare sold out his older brother Harmund, along with their mother, to his detractors in order to become King of the Iron Islands.
  • "Talma Gordon": When it's discovered that Captain Gordon intended to leave the bulk of his fortune to his son and only a small annuity for his daughters Talma and Jeannette, that the will and other papers were missing, and that Talma and her father had a terrible fight over her lover, it's assumed that she was responsible for his murder, since no one would have so much to gain from it as her and her sister. Later it turns out Jeannette had planned to murder him for the inheritance, but someone else got to him first, so she gathered the papers and fled.
  • In Warrior Cats, Clan law dictates that the Clan deputy becomes their Clan's leader if the leader dies. In the first series, Tigerclaw attempted to murder his leader, Bluestar; he, as ThunderClan's deputy, would have inherited her position if he had succeeded.
  • In the fifth Twelve Houses book, the Big Bad is a minor noblewoman who missed out on a chance to become a mid-level noblewoman. So instead she comes up with a plot to marry her daughter to another minor nobleman, and kill the most important noble in their part of the country. Since that noble had no close relatives, her titles would, after the authorities spent some time looking up the genealogies, go to a distant cousin — the minor nobleman the Big Bad planned on marrying her daughter to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On Battle Creek the detectives are investigating a woman's murder when they discover that she has been spending a lot of time with an older wealthy man who died a few days before her. They suspect that the deaths are related and that the man's children might have killed him for his money. However, this theory is subverted when it is revealed that the man died of natural causes. The dead woman was the man's illegitimate daughter and was killed by her half-siblings so they would not have to share their inheritance with her. After they are arrested, the dead woman's son inherits everything.
  • Belgravia culminates in John Bellasis attempting to murder his cousin Charles Pope so he can get his status as Lord Brockenhurst's heir (Lord Brockenhurst is John's uncle/Charles' grandfather) back.
  • In the Decoy episode "Bullet of Hate," a man encourages his niece to murder his wife so he can spend the $2000 she has stashed away.
  • Diagnosis: Murder has a millionaire who decides to leave his fortune to a hospital, but who dies before he can change his will. Naturally, suspicion falls on his three awful children.
  • El Chapulín Colorado had an episode where three cousins are trying to murder their uncle for the inheritance, prompting Chapulin to try to protect him. In the end, he survives and explains to them that even if they succeeded, it would have been for naught, because he already changed his will to give all his money for charity.
  • The Fugitive (2000). Much like in the movie (which the 2000 series is far more based on rather than on the original show) Kimble is believed to have murdered his wife to get his hands on her money (and again, the fact that he was already a wealthy doctor is ignored). He can't make anyone believe that he didn't want to use her money to buy a new house (either to avoid looking like a Gold Digger or because of some antiquated notion that he, as the man, should be the one to do so).
  • Subverted and played with for an episode Gilligan's Island. Mr. Howell changes his will to include his fellow castaways. Then a group of circumstances makes him think they're trying to kill him. However (predictably), that's wrong; they were collaborating on a surprise party for him.
  • The Goodies. Parodied in "Cecily" when the little girl who's apparently the subject of numerous attempts to scare her to death for her 50,000 pound inheritance is actually just pranking the Goodies. She ends up blowing up the house with them in it.
  • Hawaii Five-0: In "Hoʻamoano", the suspect in the murder of a woman turns out to be her half-brother, who killed her in fear that he'll lose some of his inheritance to her.
  • This is played with on Limitless. After a billionaire is murdered, Brian theorizes that one or more of the man's children might have killed him for the inheritance but it seems to be subverted when he is told that the man publicly disinherited his children some time ago and left all his money to various charities. It is then double subverted when it comes out that the dead mans' new will was never properly filed and thus his children might have murdered him if they knew about it. At the end the man was murdered by his lawyer who conspired with some of the children to hide the new will and split the money with them.
  • Midsomer Murders had a rich Jerkass tell two or three people they'd be the sole inheritors of his fortune (without informing the others), just so that they'd show up to the reading and discover they got nothing. Since he's the episode's first victim, and some of the claimants follow him, there is naturally suspicion about this trope being in play.
  • Very common in Monk. If a murder victim's spouse appears on-screen it was almost certainly them, either because of this or A Deadly Affair:
    • In "Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized", a woman is apparently abducted by her massively wealthy Fiction 500 husband while they're going through a rocky divorce, and she kills him in the escape. It turns that thanks to a prenup she wouldn't be able to cash out on the divorce, so she bumped him off before it was finalized and staged the kidnapping as a Self-Defense Ruse so she could inherit everything.
    • In "Mr. Monk and the Psychic", the killer murders his rich wife so he can collect her inheritance and a large life insurance policy. He makes it look like she died in a car wreck but an unfortunately-timed landslide buries her and the car; since he can't inherit anything until she's officially dead, and he can't exactly go and dig her up himself, he drugs a Phony Psychic and makes it look like she found her instead.
    • "Mr. Monk is at Your Service" has a case where a car accident supposedly kills the the bad guy's wealthy parents, and the fortunes of their respective children are said to depend on which of them died earlier. The killer's father dies first, which would leave his sisters with the money, so he murders his mother and stages the car accident so it will look like she died first.
    • "Mr. Monk and the Leper" features a sort of inverted version. A woman kills her CEO husband, only to find that he had left the bulk of his fortune to his sister and nephews. Since they Never Found the Body the matter of his death is left open, letting her live large as joint owner of his wealth until several years later when the actual inheritors petition to have him officially declared dead. She ends up orchestrating a scheme to make it look like the victim is still alive and in hiding so she can keep living off his money.
    • Another variation: In "Mr. Monk and the Other Woman", the killer finds out that his uncle cut him out of his will. While he doesn't kill the uncle (who's on the verge of death anyways) he does break into his uncle's lawyer's office and switch the will with one leaving him everything, before murdering the lawyer who would obviously know the contents of the real thing.
  • In The Millionaire, each episode features somebody anonymously receiving a check for one million dollars from an Eccentric Millionaire. In several of the episodes, the recipient becomes a target of somebody who hopes to inherit the million.
  • In the Murder, She Wrote episode "Crossed Up", Mr. Rogers had quarreled extensively with his family. The morning he was found dead, he had intended to meet with his lawyer to cut all of them except his granddaughter Leslie out of the will. Dody Rogers, his daughter-in-law, shot him before he could disinherit her and her husband.
  • On My Name Is Earl Earl wins the lottery shortly after his wife Joy divorced him. Joy is upset that she will not get a share of the money but remembers that Earl once made a video where he stated that should he die, Joy should get all his property. Based on this, Joy attempts to kill Earl. She fails multiple times and when Earl realizes what is going on, he informs her that he has already had a new will drawn up and she will get nothing if he dies.
  • Saturday Night Live: In "The Californians" sketch in the 40th Anniversary special, cousin Alison (Taylor Swift) sabotaged Great Aunt Lana's (Betty White) hot air balloon in order to inherit Lana's fortune, since she is the only one in Lana's will. But Lana turns up alive.

  • Stephen Lynch's "When Grandfather Dies" is all about how much he looks forward to inheriting all of the money his grandfather had saved up, becoming progressively impatient with grandpa's stubborn refusal to just die already, eventually leading to this. Unfortunately...
    ''Before I collect, a small oversight, but everything should turn out alright... I'll start working on my grandma tonight."
  • Mentioned in Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" from Midnights. The narrator dreams about her daughter-in-law killing her for her money. The joke's on her, though - while the lyrics simply imply that the narrator didn't leave them anything in the will, the music video expands upon it by having the children receive 13 cents and the narrator's beach house being given to her cats.
    I have this dream my daughter in-law kills me for the money
    She thinks I left them in the will
    The family gathers 'round and reads it and then someone screams out
    "She's laughing up at us from Hell"

    Tabletop Games 

  • In The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen's Guild Dramatic Society Murder Mystery, the show-within-a-show whodunnit revolves around the various members of a family gathered for a will reading being killed off one by one to secure an inheritance.

    Video Games 
  • A variant from Baldur's Gate II: Korgan murdered his brothers after their father died in order to be the only beneficiary the inheritance. He never states whether or not he murdered his father for said inheritance in the first place, though his choice of wording — and Korgan not being the type to dodge responsibility for someone's death — implies he didn't.
  • The Colonel's Bequest is a notable subversion. Within an hour of Colonel Dijon announcing that everyone (apart from Laura, the player character) present at the meal who outlives him will receive an equal share of his estate, people start dying. The obvious conclusion is that somebody wants a larger slice of the estate, but it ultimately turns out that the killer had a mental breakdown about the will proving that she wasn't really her uncle's favorite as she'd always thought, and decided to restore her perceived place as his favorite relative by becoming his only relative.
  • In Criminal Case: City of Romance, designer Charles Pilsnerfeld is killed, and one of the suspects is Simone Lemaitre, his business partner whom he had previously promised total control of the company at the event of his death. Simone is the murderer, having killed Charles in haste when the designer announced that he plans to leave his company to his cat instead of Simone. Unfortunately for her, Charles had already changed his will, rendering her murder of him pointless even if she hadn't been caught.
  • In Crusader Kings, acquiring a position as heir or speeding up the inheritance through a variety of creative means is par for the course. So is killing off one's siblings under gavelkind inheritance to acquire a larger slice of the pie. In a variation, sometimes what's inherited isn't actual land, but simply a claim to land by being in the line of succession; the latter allows you to engage in warfare rather than mere murder to grab the contested land.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: One Sidequest has a newlywed hire the player character to assassinate his wealthy father-in-law for his inheritance, with the implication that he's already begun to poison the bride. The PC can double-cross him and join forces with the father-in-law or carry out the murder and reveal that the father-in-law named his prized pig as sole inheritor.
  • Can often happen unintentionally in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, due to the inheritance mechanic not being very well polished. Sometimes a courier will track down the player after the death of an NPC, alerting them that they've received an inheritance from them... even if you were the person who killed that NPC, and that was the only time you met them. This extends to NPCs that literally cannot be peacefully be interacted with, such hired thugs sent to kill you.
  • In ENIGMA: An Illusion Named Family, most of Minhyuk's family has been fighting over the money they were supposed to inherit after their father's death for the last ten years. When they find themselves trapped in the manor by their own security system with an unknown murderer wandering around, suspicions naturally run high that this is the case. However, this is ultimately subverted- the killer, Minhyuk's Split Personality, actually wants revenge on the family for their mistreatment of him.
  • In Hitman: Blood Money, one mission tasks you to infiltrate the wedding of the son of a wealthy crime boss to assasinate the groom and his father, with the stipulation that the son may only be killed after the official wedding ceremony and the bride cannot be harmed. A few missions later, a small article in the newspaper talks about the sudden appearance of a mysterious wealthy socialite. It won't surprise you that the woman pictured looks an aweful lot like the bride.
  • Murder in the Alps:
    • Aldo Molinelli, the president of the wealthy Molinelli Industries, is murdered in The Heir by Osvald Bernstein, the company's longtime employee and a friend of both the Molinellis and the protagonist Anna Myers. Anna discovers Osvald to be Aldo's cousin through Aldo's estranged aunt who was disinherited for marrying against her father's will. In addition to murdering Aldo, Osvald tricks his dying uncle, Aldo's father, to sign a will that will give him ownership over Molinelli Industries since Osvald is the only living blood relative of Aldo's father. If not for Anna, he'd have gotten away with his crimes and framed an innocent person for the murder.
    • It's revealed in The Only Redemption that Elsa Brandt, an unsuccessful actress, disguised herself as Eugen Graner in order to marry an elderly widow and inherit her wealth by murdering her. When the real identity of the murderer was discovered, Elsa escaped to hide in Porto Ceso as Marco Vizzini.

  • In Latchkey Kingdom, Princess Rosaline was content with waiting for her inheritance as long as she was sure to find it waiting for her; but when she learned her parents were trying to make a male heir, she tried to poison them, leaving them in a coma.
  • In Something*Positive, this is actually part of a deal made by the rich guy and the potential inheritor, with Avogadro agreeing to give Kharisma a few months to get rid of him before he cuts her out of his will again. He dies without her involvement, but because of all her attempts, there's enough evidence to arrest her for murder anyway... and it turns out he lied about ever putting her in his will in the first place.

     Web Original 
  • A mystical version turns out to be at the center of several plot threads in Heretical Edge. All of the murder attempts Avalon has faced were encouraged by the Seosten because she is the closest living relative of Liesje Aken and thus the only person who can open her blood vault containing a way to protect anyone from being possessed by Seosten, and the Seosten want their pawn to be the closest relative so she can acquire and destroy the method. Professor Pericles was murdered because an unintentional spell interaction made the Seosten believe he was the one who cast spells on Avalon to protect her and mark anyone who managed to kill her (hence why the Seosten resorted to subtly encouraging others to do the job) and the spells would end with the caster's death.
  • In Pay Me, Bug!, it's speculated that Baron Mogra Tylaris was killed by his son Rolis so he could inherit the throne. In the sequel, A Rake by Starlight, it's proven true.

     Web Video 
  • In the first episode of season 2 of Nightmare Time, "Honey Queen", Sam Sweetly kills Zoey's grandmother by messing with her medications so that Zoey can get her inheritance.

     Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


If There's a Will Reprise

While "If There's A Will" already dealt with Helen's grievances and desire to kill Shampagne for the will, the reprise has Helen even angrier and more focused on killing Shampagne.

How well does it match the trope?

4.78 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / InheritanceMurder

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