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"If I leave a man in my will ten talking elephants and a hundred winged horses, he cannot complain if the conditions partake of the slight eccentricity of the gift. He must not look a winged horse in the mouth."

A character learns that a distant relative has passed and bequeathed to them a substantial fortune/estate. There is, of course, a catch in the will that must be obeyed. Should it be violated, everything will pass to another person.

The catch is usually one of the following:

  • The character must spend the night in the deceased's impossibly large mansion, which may or may not be a Haunted House. Either way, expect someone in the will to adopt a transparent ghost disguise (perhaps a bedsheet) and try to disqualify everyone else by scaring them off.
  • The character is explicitly warned they must not harm "X" — which prompts "X" to move in with them and become a shameless moocher.
  • The character must marry, either a specific person, or simply marry someone.
  • The character simply must stay alive, because the will stipulates another will inherit all if anything "unforeseen" happens to the main character. This is usually a setup for said secondary character to try and kill off the primary beneficiary and Make It Look Like an Accident.

The catch is essentially a foreshadowed Reset Button to quickly restore the status quo, since making the characters of a show extremely wealthy will almost always kill the inherent drama or central premise of the show by implying that they could simply buy their way out of whatever Zany Scheme they got into.

Thus, unless an inheritance is part of the plot from the start, whatever the character inherits, they're going to blow it by the end. They may do so by accident or purposely after deciding Celebrity Is Overrated and no amount of wealth is worth the humiliating restrictions.

A common subversion is for the characters to not blow the catch, but end up with nothing because the estate is heavily in debt and is promptly seized by a bank or the IRS for back taxes.

Another way to play it is to make the inheritance "worthless", as in a promised collection of "priceless" artwork turns out to be a pile of incomprehensible impressionist scribbles that are only "priceless" in that no one could ever be found who actually wanted to buy them. Or, it could simply be "worth-less", as in they get Great Uncle Beaureguard's $1 million fortune, but it's Confederate money. In Real Life, it would actually be worth a pretty penny to collectors, but obviously no longer worth face value.

Another possible ending is for the supposedly dead relative to show up alive, and reveal that the whole affair was a Secret Test of Character.

Very likely to overlap with A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted.

See Also: Never Win the Lottery, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie, Scarpia Ultimatum, Game Between Heirs, Prestige Peril, some cases of Divorce Assets Conflict (especially those involving a wacky prenup), and Silly Will.


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  • An ad for a men's clothing store had an old woman's video will bequeath a substantial fortune to her grandson, but only if he starts to dress nicer. He goes to the store being advertised and buys a stylish new wardrobe and returns to the lawyer's office to find his still-living grandmother waiting for him. She just wanted him to improve his fashion sense.

    Anime & Manga 
  • A Japanese variant found in a number of anime series involves the heir to some sort of unwanted family business needing to fulfill the condition to avoid having to devote their life to a career that they hate, or an unwanted arranged marriage. Examples of this include:
    • Chou Kuse ni Narisou: Nagisa actually enjoys the martial arts, but also wishes to be free to continue as an Idol Singer.
    • W Juliet: Makoto's father is set to inherit the Narita family dojo unless he lives as a girl and successfully hides his true gender until his high school graduation. Only then will he be allowed to become an actor like he wants, instead of running the dojo.
  • Captive Hearts: Suzuka's father made a will stating that, if he died and left no heirs, his estate should be split between his wife and Yoshimi (the butler). While Suzuka and her parents were all officially declared dead, Yoshimi got the whole money until Suzuka was found.
  • In episode nineteen of Excel♡Saga, the heir to the gigantic company Atlas Group must go around the world in 80 hours in order to successfully inherit it. And planes are specifically off-limits.
    • Which is just about impossible, given that this would require traveling at roughly 300 mph, which most land or sea vehicles can't do, and even those that can have to do it in controlled conditions where they won't be crashing into people who aren't driving vehicles that go that fast.
  • In Hanaukyō Maid Team (both series), Ryuuka Jihiyou's grandfather told her she'd succeed him as the head of the Jihiyou family if she marries the head of the Hanaukyo family, Taro Hanaukyo. Despite not (initially) liking Taro, she has no qualms about fulfilling said condition. However, Taro told her he didn't know her enough to know if he'd like to be her husband or not. In order to get him to know her, she decides to become one of his several maids.
  • The setup for The Mystic Archives of Dantalian is this. The protagonist inherits a huge mansion and everything in it from his father; naturally, "everything in it" includes Dalian, who is a talented Doom Magnet (and also a bit of a pest).
  • In NAKAIMO - My Little Sister is Among Them!, Shougo Mikadono's father was the leader of a large business conglomerate but has now died and left in his will that Shougo inherits the fortune left behind. The catch is that he has to go to a certain school to meet a suitable wife. While that in itself isn't a big deal, in the first episode a girl talks to him through a high window and claims to be his biological sister. She says she's going to marry him, also attends the same school, and to make matters worse, she won't reveal who she is! So poor Shougo has to figure out which of the many girls clamoring over him is his sister, so as to avoid marrying her. It's ultimately revealed in the light novels (the anime ended before that point since the novels had yet to finish) that they're Not Blood Siblings — while Konoe, the girl who'd spoken to him, is indeed Kumagoro Mikadono's biological daughter, Shougo is not Kumagoro's biological son. Consequently, they can safely have a relationship.
  • The (male) protagonist of Otoboku - Maidens Are Falling For Me is required to attend an all-girls' boarding school to inherit his grandfather's estate.
  • The Pokémon: The Original Series episode "Holy Matrimony!" has Jessie, Meowth, and the "twerps" learning that James came from a wealthy family. Not wanting to marry the woman they wanted him to (who happens to look exactly like Jessie), he ran away from home and joined Team Rocket. In that episode, James' parents have mysteriously died and their butler states that, unless James gets married within the next 24 hours, their fortune would go to charity... which he is completely fine with, since he figures it's all an elaborate ruse anyway. It's Jessie and Meowth that force him into the marriage before it's revealed that he was right, and that his parents faked their deaths in order to lure him back.
  • Discussed in The Tale of the Three Bears. A character brings up a scenario where a man bequeaths $10 million to be split between his two sons on the condition the sons agree on how much each one will receive otherwise they don't get anything. The eldest son suggests getting $8 million while the youngest gets the remaining two. The character who brings it up asks another character what he'd do in the youngest's place. He answers that he'd rather get nothing than let his brother get more.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, the weird head of the wealthy Ushiromiya family leaves an enormous fortune in gold to anyone who can solve a strange riddle. The catch is that the riddle describes the ritual to revive the witch who supposedly gave him the gold, and someone's killing off everyone on the island in accordance with it.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Archie Comics story, a wealthy alumnus of Riverdale High dies and leaves the school a large sum—provided they win a baseball game with Central. The alumnus was never able to beat the team during his time, and he wanted to 'inspire a victory'. The executor of the will, his granddaughter, even remarked on how stupid the whole thing was, but there you were. While the boys' team loses to Central, Betty points out that the will doesn't say which team needs to beat Central, and Riverdale gets its money when the girls' team wins.
  • One story of The Cavern Clan featured Pitheco (Piteco) learning his uncle died and left him ten million bucks (Which was unexpected since Pitheco didn't even know his uncle became rich) on the condition that he gets married. He then decided to marry Tooga (Thuga), since the other options were not so attractive. When he was about to get married, the will's executors showed up to tell him that they found out his uncle had secretly got married and left a widow and three kids. Pitheco would only inherit twenty bucks, provided he still gets married. Pitheco promptly declared he'd never change his life for so little. Hurt by this, Tooga hit him and left in tears. The executors then gave Pitheco a letter where his uncle told him he made that will hoping Pitheco would get married and enjoy the life of a family man. Pitheco then commented that now he knew the biggest prize he lost.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
    • One Carl Barks Donald Duck story featured Donald learning he's going to inherit one thousand dollars from a relative he never heard about before if he earns another thousand dollars. However, it was a plot by Scrooge McDuck. Donald had previously located a sunken yacht belonging to Scrooge and offered to salvage it for fifty thousand dollars but Scrooge refused to pay more than two thousand dollars for it. After Scrooge sabotaged Donald's other attempts to earn that money, Donald accepted Scrooge's proposition. To further antagonize Donald, Scrooge saw to it that all conventional means to salvage the yacht would cost Donald three thousand dollars. Donald and his nephews then tried to outsmart Scrooge by buying several loads of ping-pong balls to float the yacht back to the surface. When Donald collected the inheritance, he also learned that it came from Scrooge. For a while, Donald believed he would keep the three thousand dollars but the company that manufactured the ping-pong balls collected the money as payment for them and the collector told them that the company belongs to Scrooge.
    • In another Carl Barks story, Scrooge had a pocket watch that happened to be a family heirloom. When one of his relatives died, he was required to present the pocket watch when claiming the inheritance. Scrooge then took it to Gyro Gearloose for repairs (The terms of the will also stated that the pocket watch must be working perfectly when presented to the executors of the will). Gyro noticed that a small stone that used to be encrusted to the watch seemed to be missing but it didn't worry Scrooge, who was used to the empty spot. The inheritance consisted solely of the stone.
    • An Italian Donald Duck story revolves around Donald Duck, Fethry Duck, and Gladstone Gander receiving an inheritance from a distant uncle, who has a secret condition for who will be given his estate, which will be revealed after spending the night in his old castle. Donald and Fethry agree to team up and share the estate to try and offset Gladstone's infuriating luck. After several misadventures during the night, the executor of the will reveals that the uncle wanted his inheritor to be like him; lazy and plagued with bad luck. Donald has bad luck but works hard. Gladstone is lazy but is extremely lucky. So, the inheritance goes to Fethry, who is both lazy and has bad luck. Unfortunately for Fethry and Donald, the estate consists mostly of a massive debt, which won't be covered by selling off its assets, meaning that Gladstone's luck saved him by having him lose the inheritance.
    • In Die 13 Trilliarden Erbschaft, Scrooge has been missing for so long he's been declared dead. As soon as Donald and Gladstone are informed Scrooge left his fortune to them, they hurry to spend it without listening to the rest of the will. Huey, Dewey, and Louie read it and find out Scrooge, not wanting his nephews to squander his fortune, set a condition preventing them from inheriting his estate until they add one million dollars to it. By the time Donald and Gladstone are informed of that condition, they've already spent nearly that amount. Gladstone decides to earn that money by selling lottery tickets, offering Scrooge's fortune as the first prize and buying a ticket so he can win. He does win but Scrooge turns out to be alive and is upset that the extra money caused the money bin to collapse. He's entertaining the idea of changing the will to include Huey, Dewey, and Louie as beneficiaries.
  • One Silver Age Jimmy Olsen story used the Brewster's Millions plot with Jimmy being required to squander a certain amount of money in a limited amount of time, only for all of his attempts to do so just ending up increasing his wealth.
    • Another story in Action Comics revolves around this. Naturally, there's a twist to it...
    • World's Finest Comics Issue #99: In "Batman's Super-Spending Spree", Batman suddenly decided to invest one million dollars on seemingly bad ideas; Superman's interference leads to him not only getting his investments back but making a profit, to Batman's dismay. After preventing some crooks' attempt to steal the money, their leader finally explains what's really happening: an eccentric millionaire named Carl Verril, in an effort to get his son Vincent to learn to respect money, bequeathed one million dollars to him on the condition that he spend it all in four days without investing more than one hundred thousand dollars on any one purchase and without making any money. If he does so, he gets ten million dollars. If he doesn't, Carl's nephew Larry gets the ten million. Unfortunately, the very night Vincent was informed of the terms of his father's will, he needed an emergency operation and couldn't spend the money by himself, so he made a deal with Batman: Batman does the spending for him and, in return, Vincent will donate nine million dollars for charity and keep only one million for himself. The lawyer accepted the idea on the condition that Batman never tells anyone why he needs to spend the million dollars. Larry then hired some thugs to steal the money so it won't be spent. After learning all of this, Superman helps Batman by selling him ten trophies of Superman's past adventures for one hundred thousand dollars each — receiving the full million in total. Which he promptly donates to charity.
  • In one story, Pete has to commit no crimes for a year in a row to collect an inheritance. Mickey tries to get him some honest job but there's nothing Pete can do without feeling like taking advantage of the job to pull a scam. In desperation, he turns himself in for a past crime he got away with so he'll spend a whole year in prison, where he'll be unable to commit any crimes.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: In "Andy Gorilla — Prize Pupil", a man's will requires his son, a Mr. Scragg, to have his school meet Ms. Gate's school in a winner-take-all baseball game wherein the losing school must close its doors forever and merge with the other. In order to even compete (since all her school's students are out with the measles), Ms. Gate has to call on her friend Wonder Woman to aid her in the game.

    Fairy Tales 
  • In The Troll's Daughter, the troll's daughter makes a plan to allow her suitor to free her. She advises the hero to enter the service of a king who owes her father money. When the debt is almost due, he is to offer to lend his master the sum on the condition that he goes on the visit dressed as a jester and does anything he wants. Having no recourse, the king is happy to agree.

    Fan Works 
  • Fate/Gamers Only: Rikku requests for d'Eon to teach her how to use a rapier, and they agree but have Rikku wear a maid outfit during the training session.
  • Harry Potter fanfic:
    • Breaking Binds and Living Free: In Chapter 2, it's revealed that James and Lilly bequeathed Albus Dumbledore 300,000 galleons... provided that he didn't send Harry to the Dursleys. Since he did just that, he won't inherit more than 30 knuts.
    • Sirius Black's will in Harry Breaks Free.
      • All properties that are no longer on his possession or part of his estate by the time of his death will no longer be part of his will.
      • All properties bequeathed to beneficiaries who fail to outlive him by 30 days will become part of the remainder of his estate. In cases where said beneficiary is the victim of foul play, the inheritance will instead be dissolved and go to charity.
      • Any properties encumbered by debts the respective beneficiaries don't want to assume liability for will revert to the remainder of his estate.
      • Severus Snape stands to inherit 10 books of his choosing from the Black Library but only after Hermione Granger, who stands to inherit 25 books of her choosing, gets her pick.
    • Growing Up Black: After Harry is declared dead, a clause in James' will transfers his inheritance to Remus Lupin. Later, Harry gets to inherit Marius' fortune so long as he ensures that Clytemnestra gets to continue enjoying the same lavish lifestyle that she's used to.
    • In Harry Prongs Tatum, James Potter's father only allowed James to inherit a part of the Potter fortune. Most of it would only be released if James fulfilled several conditions. Since Voldemort didn't allow James to live long enough, Harry will inherit that money if he fulfills the conditions.
    • Heir of Prince: Eileen Prince (Severus Snape's mother) disappointed her family for marrying a muggle. Her father then left the Prince Family's fortune (and the title of Head of the Prince Family) to her son with the stipulation that, if Severus sires a son whose mother is a pureblood, the son will inherit once he becomes seventeen years old.
  • In The Mask Makes The Pony, Flicker learns that he's Dr. Sterling's chosen heir... so long as he keeps Madam Pakora employed. This isn't an issue, since his inheritance easily covers her salary.
  • A Naruto fanfic featured a villain who built a hotel in Konoha as cover for his activities. To make sure no guest would find out, he put up prices so high nobody would check in. When a ninja showed up to investigate, said villain (falsely) claimed he'd received an inheritance but has to set up a business to keep it. He explains that he put up high prices because he doesn't want to deal with guests and the will does not specify how good or bad the business must be.
  • Scattered to the Winds: After learning that Louie is related to Scrooge, who went missing alongside Donald and Della years before, Glomgold offers to make him his heir, provided that Louie spends a year bonding with him first. Rather than intending to corrupt the kid, Glomgold hopes to ensure that at least one person will miss him after he's gone, having realized how much of his life he wasted competing with Scrooge.
  • War of the Biju: Orochimaru tells the revived Hokages that he'll permit them to aid the Allied Shinobi Forces without him controlling them... provided that they keep his revival and involvement secret.
  • Will-Powered: Casket is only willing to eat his Devil Fruit if it enables him to fix Merry after the ship is damaged by the Dolphin King.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Coco when a human is being blessed by a dead relative in order to return to the living world, it's possible for the relative to add any condition they want. In Imelda's case, she first insists Miguel go home, put her photo back on the ofrenda, and never play music again; he instantly breaks that. Later, she tries to bless him with the same conditions, but with the alteration to put up Héctor's photo as well, and instead of never playing music again, to never forget how much his family loves him, but is interrupted by Ernesto. She tries one last time with a dying Héctor's assistance just before sunrise, only she gives no conditions this time, and she's successful and Miguel returns home.
  • In Lucky Luke and the Ballad of the Daltons, the Dalton Brothers (Joe, William, Jack, and Averell) were informed that their Uncle Henry Dalton left them their money on the condition that they kill the judge and the jury that sentenced him to be hanged. Unfortunately, for the Daltons, Uncle Henry also demanded that the Daltons brought Lucky Luke as a witness to confirm the fulfillment of the condition. While the other Daltons were trying to contain the enraged Joe Dalton upon hearing this, the lawyer who informed them of Uncle Henry's death told them that, if they fail, the money will go to charity. The Daltons agreed to offer Lucky Luke a share of the inheritance in exchange from his help (they were planning to kill him afterwards). Lucky Luke tricked the Daltons into thinking he'd agreed while he actually helped their targets to fake their deaths. At the end, when the Daltons thought they were about to get the money, they actually met the judge and the jurors ready to convict them for the murder attempts with Lucky Luke as witness. The Daltons were sent back to prison and Uncle Henry's money went to the Henry Dalton Foundation, which took care of orphans.
  • Millionaire Dogs: Subverted. The pets lose the inheritance if they leave Miss Lily's house for more than 48 hours in a row but the condition was imposed by the law rather than her will.
  • In Ratatouille, Gusteau stipulated in his will that, if no heir of his claims his restaurant within the first two years after his death, it'll go to his Sous-Chef Skinner.
  • A variant of this is what provides the conflict for the plot of Toy Story 2. Woody is stolen by a greedy toy collector named Al, discovering that he was once the main character of a popular 1950s western-puppet TV series called Woody's Roundup, and Al plans on selling him and the rest of the collection of dolls based on the main characters (Jessie the cowgirl, Stinky Pete the prospector, and Bullseye the horse) to a famous toy museum in Tokyo, Japan for a huge profit. Woody originally wishes to escape back to Andy immediately, but the only problem is that the museum is only willing to buy the collection if he, the main character and most valuable piece, is in it. Therefore if Woody leaves, not only will the other pieces of the collection not be able to get into the museum, but also will be returned into storage, likely forever. Woody finally comes up with an alternative, bringing Jessie and Bullseye home with him, while Stinky Pete ends up in a different home, finding himself to be much happier now that he's being loved and played with.
  • In Turning Red, Mei and her friends only agree to go to Tyler's birthday party for the money he promises to pay for Mei's panda form to be the entertainment.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 1973 Black Comedy Arnold has a Gold Digger who marries the eponymous man — despite his being dead — and inherits his money as a stipend provided she stays by the corpse (embalmed, in an open coffin). Much of the film is taken up with Arnold's greedy relatives being killed off in... creative ways.
  • In the rom-com The Bachelor, Jimmie Shannon will inherit his cynical, progeny-obsessed grandfather's $100 million if he gets married before his 30th birthday, which will arrive in less than 24 hours from the reading of the will. So that he should remain an admirable romantic lead and not motivated by greed, it is made clear that if he doesn't fulfill the condition, the sporting-goods factory where he works will be shut down and its assets sold off, throwing hundreds of people he knows out of work.
  • Brewster's Millions (1985): Monty Brewster will inherit $300 million only if he can spend $30 million within a single month — without accumulating anything that might be considered as an asset. He can hire anybody and pay them whatever he wants but has to receive actual value in return. He can't give away more than 5% and he can't lose more than 5% gambling. (Which backfires, as one of his insane long-shot bets intended to just squander money ends up winning.) He can't destroy anything inherently valuable (no buying a dozen Picassos and using them as firewood, though he does buy a valuable stamp and use it as actual postage, getting it stamped as canceled). Ultimately, he decides on running a political campaign... encouraging voters to vote "None of the Above", since winning the actual office would be an asset, and both the other candidates were jackasses. The campaign succeeds (and the jackasses he was running against, seeing the writing on the wall, decide not to stand for the follow-up election), but he comes up short by $100,000. Right before the time limit runs out, one of his relatives contests the will. Monty hires his love interest to defend him in the case... paying her a $100,000 retainer.
  • In Curse of the Headless Horseman, there is a codicil to Uncle Callahan's will that says Mark must make the ranch financially successful with six months in order for him to retain possession of it.
  • This is the plot of the Rodney Dangerfield movie, Easy Money. Working-class hedonist Rodney's ultra-wealthy mother-in-law leaves all of her money to him — so long as he cleans up his act, giving up drugs, drinking, smoking, gambling, overeating and sleeping around. Since it's a movie, again, no need for the Reset Button, permitting him to succeed at meeting the challenge. Then his MIL turns up alive, saying that he gets to keep the money, anyway, so long as he remains on the straight and narrow; he ends up living a double life of smoking and drinking while playing poker with his buddies in the basement.
  • Dave Coulier in the Christmas movie The Family Holiday. His uncle leaves him ten million dollars on the condition that Dave must prove that he is married, has a family, and is working a legitimate job. He scams his best friend into getting him a job at a novelty toy factory, hires a brother/sister pair of runaways, and tricks a recently laid-off tutor into working for him but doesn't tell her that she's supposed to be his "wife" or the kids' "mom". Hilarity Ensues. Of course, Dave earns his inheritance. However, his uncle knew that Dave would lie to get the money, and so the executor of the estate—his uncle's 2nd wife, set up this elaborate ruse complete with social workers and cops, to make sure that Dave really cared about others. He is given the check but he rips it up. Only after he marries the tutor, gets the kids formally adopted, and keeps his job at the factory, his step-aunt gives him the money.
  • Gleahan and the Knaves of Industry: A variant. Nathaniel promises the Johnson Brewing and Mining Company to Derek if he can capture Gleahan.
  • William Castle's "B" horror film House on Haunted Hill (1959) has the spending-the-night-in-a-haunted-house version. However, in this case, the millionaire in question (played by Vincent Price) isn't dead or dying, just highly eccentric. And it's all part of an Evil Plan to murder his wife.
    • His wife is also using the party as part of her own Evil Plan to murder him.
  • The Hudsucker Proxy: Mr. Hudsucker made a will leaving his shares of Hudsucker Industries (81% of the company) to the first person who replaces him as the company's CEO.
  • The Invisible Man (2020): According to promotional material, Cecelia must prove herself mentally sane in order to inherit the money her ex-boyfriend Adrian Griffin left her. A condition she cannot fulfill because Griffin, the titular invisible man and a manipulative Yandere, makes her look paranoid with his relentless campaign of terror in the hopes that if she is legally declared crazy and penniless she will have no choice but to depend on him again.
  • Kevin Manley, the protagonist of Kevin of the North, was named his Grandfather's sole heir on the condition that he enters the yearly Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and makes it to the finish line, all of it before one year has passed from his Grandfather's death. Interested in the Grandfather's gold, Clive Thornton, the lawyer who read the will, tried to make sure Kevin would fail. Kevin not only made it to the finish but also won the race.
  • Occurs in Laughter in Paradise (later remade in 1970 as Some Will, Some Won't). Wealthy, well-known practical joker Henry Russell dies, leaving considerable sums of money to four relatives...provided they commit acts completely contrary to their natures. A law-abider has to get himself arrested and jailed for 28 days, a snob has to find work as a maid and keep her job long enough to qualify, a womanizing cad has to marry the first single woman he meets, and a meek and submissive coward has to hold up the bank where he works with a toy pistol. All of them fulfilled their respective conditions but learned Henry Russell wasn't so wealthy and just hoped their experiences from this would change them for the better.
  • In The Old Dark House (1963), the Femm family's pirate ancestor, wanting to make sure that no one in his family would turn to piracy like he did, deemed in his will that each member his family is required return to their ancestral home by midnight, or they'll forfeit their share of their ancestor's fortune. The will also forbids the house's sale; the only way to break its conditions without losing the money is for the house to be destroyed, and it was specifically constructed to make this impossible (the walls are built of basalt, so nothing short of a volcanic eruption could bring the place down).
  • In The Richest Cat in the World, a millionaire named Oscar Kohlmeyer left his cat five million dollars and, in a failed attempt to discourage his nephew from contesting the will, left the nephew twenty-five thousand dollars on the condition the nephew doesn't contest it. Unfortunately, the nephew was a pushover whose wife forced him to contest and blamed him for losing the twenty-five thousand dollars.
  • Occurs in Disney Channel movie Rip Girls. A girl named Sydney Miller inherited a valuable piece of land on a Hawaiian island. According to the terms of the will, she must go to that island to claim her inheritance in person and stay in there for two whole weeks before being allowed to do anything with the land.
  • The Buster Keaton movie Seven Chances (1925) has Buster inheriting seven million dollars if he marries before 7 p.m. on his 27th birthday — which just happens to be that very day...
  • A Three Stooges short, Brideless Groom, featured Shemp trying to get married on short notice to satisfy the must-be-married clause in an inheritance. Hilarity Ensues when the ceremony is crashed in unison by his ex-girlfriends when they hear about the money.
    • A condensed version of Brideless Groom, complete with footage, was reused in Husbands Beware, except this time, there was no relative and no will and the whole thing was revenge by Larry and Moe on Shemp for getting them married to his sisters.
  • In the 2016 Brazilian comedy Tô Ryca!note , the plot is centered on Selminha attempting to fulfill the challenge of her dead relative's will in order to get the fortune: spending 30 million in 30 days, without accumulating any and not telling anyone. After the ending, we see a recording from said dead relative, in which he brings up "the reason behind that challenge". But then he starts a coughing fit before he can say it, and then the actress just breaks character.
  • Young Frankenstein: A deleted scene (kept intact in the novelization) explains how Frederick inherited the estate of his very distant and disliked great-grandfather: said Baron Frankenstein had left his estate to his much closer relatives, naming each of them specifically, to be divided up evenly, unless Frederick had of his own choosing become a doctor and achieved some esteem in his field. As this had indeed happened, all the money and property went to him. The idea was that the Baron wanted to give his inheritance to someone who would have some chance of erasing the stain on his family name. Baron Frankenstein left instructions to prevent his will's contents from being disclosed until a hundred years after he was born, meaning Frederick had until then to fulfill the condition.


By Author:

  • A few Georgette Heyer novels involve a marriage/inheritance condition.
    • In Cotillion, the heroine will inherit her miserly foster father’s entire fortune—but only if she marries one of his great-nephews. note 
    • In Friday's Child, the hero can't touch his fortune until he turns 25—or until he marries. He responds by marrying the first woman he sees.
  • One of O. Henry's stories featured a young man addicted to gambling who was granted his inheritance on the condition that he does not gamble for a set period. On the last day of his abstinence, he learns that the inheritance will instead go to a pretty young female relative should he fail. Of course, his next action is to go into the lawyer's office and solemnly proclaim that he just finished betting on the horses and that he was yielding the inheritance.

By Title:

  • In the Adrian Mole book The Cappuccino Years, an elderly man Archie Tait who has no friends or close family at all leaves Adrian his house, on condition that Adrian lives there, and cares for Archie's cat for the rest of its life. This is a mixed blessing to Adrian, as the house needs a lot of repair.
  • Commonly seen in retellings of Around the World in Eighty Days, which changes the purpose of the titular journey from The Bet to this trope.
  • Aunt Dimity: In the series opener, Lori Shepherd learns that her "Aunt" Dimity, whom she'd always thought was a character her mother made up for her stories, was a real person — Dimity Westwood, who's recently died and left Lori a bequest of $10,000. However, in order to inherit, she must go to Dimity's old home (a honey-coloured stone cottage near the village of Finch, said to be in the Cotswolds), search through Dimity's decades-long correspondence with Lori's mother, and write an introduction to a soon-to-be-published collection of the "Aunt Dimity" stories, with attorney Willis Sr. checking up on her progress via phone and his son Bill accompanying her to England. The condition isn't particularly onerous, since Lori has help and her expenses are fully covered, including anything that might distract her (like her credit card bills).
  • Bag of Bones: In an attempt to keep his daughter-in-law Mattie, and thus his granddaughter Kyra, on the TR after his death, Devore leaves Mattie 80 million dollars on the condition that she remains on the TR for one year after Devore's passing. She is allowed to go on day trips but has to make sure she spends every single night on the TR. Lawyer John Storrow assures Mattie's friend Mike however that such a condition can never legally be enforced.
  • The Isaac Asimov Black Widowers story "To the Barest". The founder of the Black Widowers, Ralph Ottur, dies and leaves a will requiring them to solve a pun riddle. They must determine which of them is the "barest", and that person gets $10,000.solution  If they fail, the money will go to the American Nazi Party. (The kicker here is that Ralph Ottur hated the American Nazi Party. He picked them as the next-in-line heir to make sure the living Black Widowers put enough effort into solving the riddle.)
    • Another case shows up in The Curious Omission, where one of the group must discover "the curious omission in Alice" to inherit $10,000. The answer is found in Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There - of all the different types of chess piece, there are no bishops.
  • Sidney Sheldon book Bloodline features a pharmaceutical company named Roffe & Sons, which founder saw to it that his heirs wouldn't be able to sell their shares of the company unless all of them agreed to do it.
  • Brewster's Millions: Montgomery Brewster must be penniless by the day he becomes 26 years old in order to inherit his uncle James T. Sedgwick's seven-million-dollar estate. And he can't simply give away whatever he had before. Even while attempting to become penniless, Montgomery must show some business skills. Donations to charity mustn't go far beyond the usually donated by other rich people. It doesn't help things that, by the time Montgomery Brewster was informed of his uncle's death and wealth, it was a little less than one year from the deadline and he had already inherited one million dollars from his paternal grandfather Edwin P. Brewster, who was the reason of Uncle James' unusual set of conditions — James Sedgwick hated Edwin Brewster to the point of not wanting his heir to have anything that came from Edwin in any way. This was also the reason Sedgwick wouldn't allow his nephew to simply donate Edwin's inheritance away: he believed Edwin Brewster would be remembered and praised for this.
  • The Cat in the Stacks Mysteries:
    • In book 2 (Classified As Murder), James Delacorte's will leaves a sum to his sister Daphne on the condition that she use it to move into an assisted-living facility. Otherwise she gets nothing.
    • In book 2 of the Southern Ladies Mysteries spinoff series, it's explained that Sondra Delevan's late father left her a large sum of money, which she'll receive when she marries (but only if she's 20 or older at the time — if she marries before she turns twenty, she gets nothing) or when she turns 25, whichever comes first. Having gotten pregnant at the age of seventeen, she refused to marry the child's father, being more interested in making sure she'd get the money. She never does get it, seeing as she's the main murder victim of the book.
  • The Cat Who... Series:
    • In book #4 (The Cat Who Saw Red), when Qwill learns the origins of Maus Haus, he finds it was a result of this trope. Hugh Penniman conceived the building as an arts center and, in his will, said that under its new owner, it must continue to serve the arts. After Penniman's sons declined it based on the condition, it passed to Hugh's niece and subsequently to her husband, Hugh's nephew-in-law Robert Maus, who solved this by renting the studios to gourmets (gastronomy being considered an art by its practitioner) and reactivating the old pottery operation. However, as demonstrated in the start of The Cat Who Played Brahms, the clause didn't forbid him from eventually selling the property to a developer who wanted to tear it down and build a high-rise apartment on the spot.
    • In book #5 (The Cat Who Played Brahms), when his Aunt Fanny dies, Qwill finds he can only inherit the Klingenschoen money if he remains a resident of Moose County for five years. The next book clarifies that leaving sooner than that would mean that the money would be turned over to a syndicate in New Jersey. "Leaving" also includes his death, which makes him a potential target. When he makes it to the five-year benchmark in book 13, he throws a celebration.
  • One of the short stories in Steve Aylett's Crime Studio is based around and plays with this: a venerable spinster with a significant fortune dies, and several of Beerlight's criminal artistes are known to be (potential) beneficiaries of her will. In the run-up to the will being read, all of them, independently, break into her lawyer's offices and alter the will in their favour. The lawyer sees through all the forgeries and alterations with ease (one was written in crayon), and reads the original, unaltered version: everyone was verbally abused, and her entire estate was to be shared equally between any beneficiaries still alive after a week from the reading. A large battle ensues; by the time the week is up, none of the named beneficiaries has died, and the lawyer has absconded with everything, and not as legal fees.
  • The Dandee Diamond Mystery: The benefactor leaves the diamond to whoever deserves it the most. As this is an interactive book, it has several endings. Some of them have a note with the diamond stating the one who found it was the one who deserved it the most. One states the benefactor's parrot deserves the diamond. One shows that the benefactor faked his death to see how far his relatives would go for the diamond and he stated he's the only one who deserves the diamond. The other endings simply don't have it stated.
  • Discworld:
    • In Making Money, Mrs. Lavish, the primary stakeholder of the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork dies and leaves all her shares to her dog, Mr. Fusspot — and leaves the dog to Moist von Lipwig, with a retainer of ten thousand dollars a year "for being so kind as to look after her poor little doggie" — oh, and if the dog dies in any untoward way, a contract with the Guild of Assassins on Moist's life immediately goes into effect. This wouldn't be such a big deal if not for the fact that Mrs. Lavish's horrible stepchildren inherit the shares if Mr. Fusspot dies... note 
    • Moving Pictures possibly as a reference to Doorways in the Sand (see above). Victor is left a large yearly sum while he is at the Unseen University studying to become a wizard with the caveat that he never scores under 80% on his exams, to ensure that he actually tries. However, Victor very carefully scores above 80 but too low to pass, to avoid having to deal with the stress and danger of being a full wizard (and the fact that the bequest ends once he graduates). The wizards eventually catch on (the time he passed and told the university he'd actually got a question wrong was a hint), and give him an exam with only one question: What is your name? Victor winds up leaving the university and not taking the test anyway; he heads off to Holy Wood instead, so when fellow student Ponder Stibbons needs a new exam paper the examiner just gives him the one from Victor's desk.
    • Unseen Academicals begins with one of these, with the variant that the money is left to a university rather than an individual. The bequest from the Bigger estate will revert to the family unless the university plays in a game of Foot-the-Ball, or Poore Boys' Funne, within a specified time, and Ponder notices that they haven't played a game in so long that they're nearly out of time to play one before the bequest reverts. It's paying for a lot of the food budget, so the wizards have to take it seriously.
  • In Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny, the protagonist's uncle has set up a fund that will pay for his living as long as he remains a full-time undergraduate—anything left from the fund after he graduates will be donated to the Irish Republican Army. The book opens when he's in his early thirties, having been in college for thirteen years.
  • It's revealed in one of the Edgar & Ellen books that Augustus Nod, the founder of Nod's Limbs, left his entire fortune to whoever finds the original limbs of the statue erected to him. (Nod stole them himself.) They're eventually found by Edgar and Ellen, who will inherit it once he dies.
  • Family Skeleton Mysteries: In book 3, the origin of McQuaid University is revealed — after Persephone McQuaid died, attendance at the school she'd founded (the McQuaid School of Art) had dropped off to the point where the family gave the building and land to the town of Pennycross to use for a university with two conditions: first, both the building and university kept the McQuaid name. Second, the land they gave to Pennycross has to remain in use as part of the university, and if it doesn't, McQuaid Hall, the university's entrance, most of the quad and parts of two other buildings will all revert to the McQuaid family. Using McQuaid Hall for their annual haunted house event has kept the property from reverting, but if the haunted house doesn't reopen in a timely manner, the McQuaid family can reclaim it all, which would be a massive problem for the university. Eventually, the rightful heir to the property does reclaim it... but then donates it to the university permanently, with the conditions that it's renamed the Dana Fenton Building (after his wife) and is converted into office space for the college's adjunct professors.
  • In order for Avery Grumbs from The Inheritance Games to inherit Tobias Hawthorne's fortune (in the neighborhood of billions of dollars) she is required to move into and live at Hawthorne House for one year. With the family he basically disinherited and left what amounts to bread crumbs in comparison. The problem is that Avery would rather not be stuck in this situation to begin with and only agrees as otherwise the entire fortune, including what the family members got, would go to charity. Then one of the family members discovers a Loophole Abuse that would leave them the family foundation if Avery dies before the year is up and tries to invoke it.
  • James Bond: In the John Gardner novel Role of Honour, as part of his sudden quarter-million pound inheritance, Bond is required to spend at least one hundred thousand pounds of it in a "frivolous and extravagant manner" within the first four months of getting it (apparently Uncle Bruce had a sense of humor). He spends most of the required sum on a new Bentley Mulsanne Turbo, and the remaining thirty thousand on friends (mostly female) and himself, including on gambling sprees.
  • Johnny Dixon series: In The Chessmen of Doom, Professor Childermass will only inherit his late brother Perry's estate (and 10 million dollars) if he stays there for the summer (June 15 to Labor Day) and keeps the place in shape without any paid help (though apparently hiring someone to fix the furnace doesn't count). He winds up violating the terms of the will by going home early, stating that the money isn't worth the risk of sticking around and possibly getting killed by the Evil Wizard Edmund Stallybrass. However, he does get twenty thousand dollars as a consolation prize. The Hand of the Necromancer adds that Perry also bequeathed him some magical items once owned by the wizard Esdrias Blackleach, with no conditions attached, though the items came with their own set of dangers.
  • Kiki Strike: Ananka received an inheritance she's not allowed to spend on anything other than educational fees.
  • Last to Die by James Grippando features a millionaire who left his considerable fortune in trust with the stipulation that the last surviving member of a particular group of people would inherit the entire amount (in short, a Tontine). He did it because he hated all of the prospective heirs and wanted them to fight one another for the money.
  • Lord Peter Wimsey:
    • One Lord Peter Wimsey story turned on a will by which The Unfavorite son inherited until his father was buried, whereupon it would all pass to the other son. Friends of The Un-Favorite stole the body to prevent burial, Lord Peter discovers the will in a book, family disputes erupt, and the final touch is Lord Peter's deducing that from the water stain in the book but not the will, that the other son had hidden the will so The Unfavorite would not find out about the condition in time.
    • Another Peter Wimsey story featured an old man who disapproved of his niece's seriousness and so wrote a will disinheriting her unless she solved a crossword puzzle to find the location of his final will leaving everything to her.
  • In Chelsea M. Cameron's Marriage of Unconvenience, Lauren "Lo" Bowman needs money fast because she can't make ends meet at the moment. Fortunately, her grandmother left her a grand inheritance in her will. Unfortunately, grammy left the stipulation that Lo needed to be married before being eligible to collect. The will didn't specify that the suitor needed to be male, though, so enter Lo's best friend from childhood Cara Simms, who is also in need of money (for grad school in her case), so the two decide to enter a Marriage of Convenience so Lo can get the money, split it, and get the marriage annulled. Guess what happens.
  • In Medusa's Web, Scott and Madeline Madden return to the strange house where they were raised by their Aunt Amity after she unexpectedly leaves her property to them on condition they live there for a week. That means dealing with their cousins Claimayne and Ariel, who aren't happy about having their home unexpectedly willed away to the relatives who left years ago and never came to visit. It turns out that Aunt Amity had an unpleasant ulterior motive, and there are various supernatural shenanigans that culminate in the house burning to the ground before the week is up. By that point, the surviving members of the family are not at all sorry to see it go.
  • In "Million-Dollar Somersaults" (from the collection In Mexico They Say), a Marquis adopts one of his poor relatives, a little girl named Paz, and spends a lot of time worrying about her pride and standoffishness as she grows up. By the time he dies, he's come up with a plan he thinks will work: in order to inherit his wealth, Paz has to dress her finest, drive to the square, where everyone will be having a party, and turn three somersaults. Despite her humiliation, Paz doesn't want to return to poverty and goes to do as her uncle asks. She does realize how silly and obnoxious she's been, and the town's other young ladies forgive her.
  • "Mr. Bovey's Unexpected Will", by Elizabeth Thomasina Meade Smith (writing as L. T. Meade), has Miss Florence Cusack witnessing an unusual one — there are three potential claimants, and whomever's weight is closest to the weight of the dead man's fortune in gold sovereigns (180 pounds) will receive the whole amount.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast had a character named Zebadiah Carter. It turns out his grandfather Zachariah had left a large inheritance, with two conditions: (for the males, at least) They had to have a name starting with Z, and they had to hold assets equal to the amount they would receive. (So if you got wealthy, it'd make you twice as wealthy. If you didn't get wealthy, you got nothing)
  • Oliver Twist: It is revealed that Oliver's father had left him an enormous fortune which he would only inherit if he maintained a clean record throughout his youth, or else it would go to his half-brother Monks. This is why Monks had pressured Fagin to take Oliver in as one of his thieves. Because Oliver's mother was still pregnant with him by the time his father wrote that will, he added a clause that would exempt Oliver from that condition had Oliver been a girl instead of a boy.
  • Sam the Cat: Detective: Prior to The Great Catsby, enthusiastic amateur musician JJ Smythington inherited billions from his uncle on the condition that he live in the countryside and host fundraisers for a charity foundation. Instead, JJ went on tour with a rock band and hired Ted Parker (Catsby's owner) to assume his identity while JJ uses Ted's name. This lets JJ follow his musical dreams while Ted raises money for the worthy causes JJ's uncle supported.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Three Garridebs", a will stipulates that a man with the extremely rare surname Garrideb will inherit a property provided that he can find two other people with the same surname. The property will be split between the three of them. However, just two Garridebs would get nothing. The trope is subverted when it turns out that the villain made the entire thing up.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe : Played dead serious in Iron Fist, where one of the provisions of Phanan's will is that Face has to get his scar removed. Also, interestingly enough, it is explained in complete detail why this is necessary: The scar was a key part of Face's backstory, and Phanan was trying to force him to move on from his past.
  • In the twentieth Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note novel The Youkai Computer Knows, Shinobu Nanaki is the heir apparent of an old family and will inherit the family fortune at 20, on the condition that he doesn't leave his house before that point. He doesn't mind this arrangement, but Aya, recalling her Friendless Background, finds this appalling. Rendered completely moot at the end of that novel, due to the bankruptcy of the family.
  • Twilight Where Darkness Begins: In book #6 (Voices in the Dark), Christie Moncrieff's grandfather leaves her family his land in Iowa, but on the condition that they have to live there. Naturally, supernatural happenings begin soon afterward and have to be dealt with.
  • In the teen novel The V Club, a wealthy woman leaves money that would provide a full scholarship to one lucky high school student, on the condition that this student be "pure," which everyone interprets as "must be a virgin." (Neither the deceased woman herself nor her attorney specified what exactly she meant by "pure;" everyone just assumed she meant virginal.) The students who are vying for the scholarship join a club (and losing one's virginity means being kicked out) and take a pledge to abstain from sex. Not everyone competing for the scholarship actually is a virgin, however.
  • In the Harlequin novel Will and a Way by Nora Roberts, the two main characters are cousins (though not by blood, of course) who have never gotten along. When an extremely wealthy and beloved great uncle of theirs dies he leaves them everything, because they were the only ones in the family who ever cared about him before he died. The only condition is that they have to live together in his house for six months and try to get along. If they fail, his estate will be evenly divided upon the rest of the family, who are all very unpleasant people. The uncle's main goal with this, apart from making sure his estate was in good hands, was of course to get them together.
  • The Witches: After the death of the hero's parents, the grandmother promises him that they will live in Norway. However, the parents' will stipulates that he must return to England and be educated there, and so they do. They do, however, return to Norway when he has been transformed into a mouse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Inverted in The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff, where Jederington desperately tries to fulfill the one condition that will prevent him being his grandfather's heir since the inheritance is a huge debt.
  • The Broad City episode "Jews on a Plane" has an openly and proudly gay man who's looking for a nice Jewish girl to marry so he can access his trust fund.
  • In Brazilian soap-opera Caras e Bocas, the founder of a prosperous diamond-mining company left 31% of the company's shares to his granddaughter on the condition that she got married and 10% to whoever she marries. He also stipulated that, if she never got married, the 10% would go to her illegitimate daughter.
  • Casseta&Planeta segment "O Diário de Um Macho" (A Macho Man's Diary) had an episode where the protagonist (Carlos Maçaranduba) and his twin brother learned their father left his fortune to the first one of them to get married. The protagonist's brother got the inheritance.
  • In one episode of El Chapulín Colorado, a man and his wife went to his late grandfather's house because there was a clause in the will stating that he must spend a night there to claim it. The grandfather had a butler and a maid, both of whom tried to scare away the couple to get the house. The plan failed but the couple, feeling they didn't need the house, let the butler and the maid keep it.
  • In the Community episode "Digital Estate Planning", Pierce Hawthorne and seven of his friends had to play and win a multiplayer game developed by his father or Pierce would lose the inheritance. Whoever wins gets the entire fortune, even if it isn't Pierce. The group subverts the dead man's agenda by agreeing that whoever wins will just hand it over to Pierce of course. However, since Pierce only has six friends, that leaves an empty seat for his late father's personal assistant, Gilbert Lawson, to sneak into the game with the intent of stealing the inheritance (because he was secretly Pierce's illegitimate, mixed-race, half-brother). Unfortunately for Gilbert, their father anticipated this turn of events and prepared an additional clause just for him, requiring that he signs a document agreeing not to reveal he's Cornelius Hawthorne's son. If Lawson doesn't, it goes back to Pierce anyway. In the end, Pierce and his half-brother share the fortune and discover they are happy to be brothers.
    • Pierce leaves millions of dollars to Troy on the condition that he circumnavigate the globe in his yacht. Additionally, all of the study group is required to answer a series of questions while hooked up to lie detectors to receive their part of the inheritance without knowing what they'll receive, ostensibly to ensure they had no part in his death.
  • The 1969 British TV series Doctor in the House has an eternal student. In his case, it was a poorly worded clause in his aunt's that provided him with an income while he was studying medicine. However, there was no time limit placed upon it, and he quickly worked out that so long as he remained at university studying medicine, he would receive a guaranteed income.
  • On The Drew Carey Show, the episode "Drew's Inheritance" saw his Uncle Cecil setting the prerequisite of Drew getting married in 72 hours from the reading of the will, purely because in life he was a big fan of movie plots in general. He and Kate would have gotten away with either a fake marriage or a real one if it weren't for their two meddling idiot-friends.
  • An episode of Los Espookys is centered on an inheritance scare, wherein five strangers have to survive the night in a "haunted" mansion to receive a millionaire's inheritance while the titular group try to scare them away.
  • Live-action variant: the one-off Fast Show special "Ted and Ralph" concerned a previously-unknown legal stipulation coming to light that Ralph will lose his entire fortune if he is unmarried by a certain age (which, of course, is almost upon him). The variation here is that Ralph already had vast wealth, and the episode detailed his attempts to not lose it.
  • Father Ted — Father Jack has left IR£500,000 to Ted and Dougal providing they spend the night before the funeral with Jack, owing to Jack's fear of being buried alive. Turns out Jack was justified in his fear as he was Not Quite Dead. Although, he could have fooled a lot of people due to lack of pulse, Rigor Mortis, decomposition... There was no guarantee that the Reset Button would be pressed as it was broadcast as the last of that series and was filmed as the pilot. This could count as a subversion as it wasn't the 'one condition' that Ted and Dougal failed on, it was the 'priority condition': the author of the will wasn't dead!
  • Rose on The Golden Girls was bequeathed $100,000 to take care of her late uncle's favorite pig for the rest of his (the pig's) life. When the pig fell ill, the vet believed he was just homesick, so the girls gave up the money and passed him on to another relative back in Minnesota, only to have the pig die of old age 36 hours later.
  • In Brazilian soap opera Guerra dos Sexos, Otávio and his cousin Charlô inherited a mansion and a store chain from their Uncle Enrico on the condition they do not sell or otherwise negotiate the mansion or the store chain unless all parties involved are family, which basically forced Charlô and Otávio to become business partners. The problem: Charlô and Otávio were Kissing Cousins until it ended in an unfriendly way. Decades later, a remake of the soap opera was produced. Instead of inheriting from Uncle Enrico, they inherited from an uncle and an aunt portrayed by the actor and the actress who portrayed Otávio and Charlô in the original soap opera. The condition is the same and Charlô commented about their uncle and aunt imposing the same condition as their Uncle Enrico.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Dennis & Dee's mother dies and leaves Dennis her mansion under the condition that their assumed father Frank never be allowed on the property. But because all the money was left to Dennis & Dee's biological father Bruce, Dee and Frank try to scheme him out of it. He sees through their scheme immediately, and the resultant game of Zany Scheme Chicken eventually results in Frank ending up at the mansion.
  • After Aunt Fran dies on Mama's Family, Thelma learns that she possessed a secret fortune, which she has willed to Thelma. The catch? The notoriously cantankerous Thelma must avoid losing her temper for two weeks, or else the money will go to Fran's favorite charity.
  • After one of Al's relatives died on Married... with Children, his will stated that whoever bears a baby boy (in wedlock) and names it after him will get half a million dollars. Unfortunately for Al, Peggy was taking birth control behind his back and the inheritance goes to the lawyer and Al's imprisoned relative. Al got his revenge by altering the results of a pregnancy test to trick Peggy into thinking she got pregnant anyway. He claimed half a million dollars wouldn't pay that fun.
  • The Millionaire, episode "The Uncle Robby Story": Robert Chesley's will leaves all his money to his niece and her husband with a condition that any portion of it they don't spend on their honeymoon will instead go to another relative they both dislike. It's not meant unkindly; Uncle Robby isn't rich and expects to leave his favorite relatives just enough for a nice time, with the penalty only included because he knows that otherwise they're likely to donate a windfall to charity instead of treating themselves. Then he's given a million dollars by an eccentric philanthropist (the millionaire of the title) and promptly dies before he has a chance to change the will...
  • Muppets Tonight:
    • Parodied in one episode in which the guest star's character will inherit a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars" provided that he is married to a beautiful woman. Miss Piggy happens to walk in the door at that point...
    • In one "The Tubmans of Porksmith" sketch, Howard Tubman learns that his great-aunt has left him a ten million dollar inheritance on the condition that he loses a large amount of weight by a certain date... which happens to be the exact same day he hears about her death. Cue Howard rushing to his treadmill and desperately trying to burn off the pounds, only to destroy the machine and be thrown off instead. His butler Carter then enters and reveals that his aunt somehow recovered from being dead (she was apparently very stubborn), which cancels the deal — but Howard shrugs it off and requests that Carter prepare chicken and dumplings to appease his exercise-driven appetite.
  • In one episode of The Nanny, Maxwell Sheffield learned that his brother Nigel bought a nightclub. Because of that, Maxwell commented that Nigel shouldn't have been allowed to use his inheritance before becoming 30 years old. Overhearing this, Maxwell's son Brighton becomes sad at the prospect of not receiving his inheritance before turning 30. To comfort him, Fran pointed out that, once he's 30 years old, he'll be rich while, once she's 30 years old, she'll be 40.
  • One sketch of Os Trapalhoes featured a woman who could only claim the inheritance her Grandfather left her if her husband were with her while she claimed it. Because he was missing and the lawyer knows what he looks like, she tried to deceive the lawyer with someone who looks like her husband.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • The episode "The Masks" has a dying millionaire inviting his greedy relatives to a Mardi Gras party and stipulating that in order to inherit his money, each will have to don a hideously grotesque mask revealing his or her true character. Despite some moaning and groaning, the family makes it through the night. Only to discover that the masks have warped their faces to be perfect replicas of the masks, leaving them very rich but having to live in shadow for the rest of their lives.
    • "Uncle Simon" was even more vicious. The titular character is looked after by his niece, who comes to resent his gruffness toward her and eventually kills him by making him fall down the stairs. Uncle Simon, apparently aware that she was interested only in his money, names the young woman the sole beneficiary of his large estate — with the condition that she look after his last project: a robot. As time passes, the robot takes on more and more of Uncle Simon's old habits, prompting the niece to try to destroy it... only to discover that it can't be done. She realizes that she's now stuck with a functionally immortal (24/7, in fact) version of her uncle — and if she doesn't want to forfeit to his alma mater, she'll have to stay with him forever. As far as she's concerned, it's well Worth It.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "A Game of Pool", Jesse Cardiff laments that he will never be regarded as the greatest pool player as long as people compare him to the deceased Fats Brown and wishes that he could play a game against him to settle the question once and for all. Fats' ghost then appears and agrees to play one game of pool with Jesse on condition that Jesse will die if he loses. Although he is initially reluctant, Jesse accepts. Jesse loses the game and expects to die immediately. However, Fats reveals that he meant that Jesse would die forgotten, as is the destiny of all second-raters.

  • The video for "Are You Ready For Freddy" by the Fat Boys begins with Prince Markie Dee inheriting a mansion from his Uncle Frederick (a.k.a. Freddy Krueger) on the condition that he spend one night inside the building.

  • In The Cat and the Canary, a codicil in Cyrus West's will stipulates that another stands to inherit if the heir "be proved of unsound mind." The identity of the next heir is kept secret, which leaves it a mystery just who is determined to drive the favored heir insane.
  • The musical Lucky Stiff focuses on Harry Witherspoon, an English shoe salesman who will inherit six million if he meets the terms of his dead uncle's will. Of course, the terms aren't ordinary: Harry must take his dead uncle's preserved corpse around Monte Carlo for a week. And if Harry fails to get one little condition right, the money defaults to his uncle's favorite charity.
  • In The Music Man, "Old Miser" Madison, the richest man in River City, wills all of his extensive land holdings (which include the local park, gymnasium, etc.) to the town after his death. One of the properties he donates is the library, but the will explicitly points out that he's only giving the city the building itself. The books inside the library are instead bequeathed to Marion Paroo, who was the only person who showed Madison any kindness during his life; it's implied that Madison did this because everyone in River City thinks that Marion is an uppity snob, so he shrewdly arranged the deal to make sure that she would always have a job there.
  • The Pajama Party Murders has a twofer in that the inheritance is to be split among all heirs who spend the evening in the Cosmo manor. The Video Will than clarifies that it is to be split among the survivors.

    Video Games 
  • In The Family Legacy you'll inherit your Uncle Arnold's estate if, within 48 hours of your arrival at Cliffside, you manage to locate the missing MacAdam Claymore. Otherwise, your Aunt Gertrude's obnoxious son Melvin gets a turn.
  • Hollywood Hijinx is a quest for 10 treasures hidden in and around your aunt and uncle's sprawling in order to inherit their estate.
  • In Lily's Garden Lily will inherit her Great-Aunt Mary's estate if she can restore the sadly-neglected grounds within thirty days.
  • The plot of SunDog: Frozen Legacy boils down to "You've inherited your uncle's spaceship. And the contract he took on. You need to fulfill the contract, or you can't keep the spaceship."
  • In the NES game Wall Street Kid, you play as the one surviving heir to a rich uncle, who stands to inherit his fortune, provided you can prove you can live the wealthy life. You are given $500,000 and have to play the stock market to turn that into enough money to buy a $1,000,000 house and a yacht, marry your sweetheart, win an auction of a castle that used to be in your family, and then pay for said castle. If you fail any one of these steps, or neglect your sweetheart or your health, you lose the inheritance.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Amanda is only offered her mother’s inheritance on the condition that she cut ties with her father.
  • In Melody, if the player is off the title character's romantic path by the confrontation with Steve and Bethany, Bethany offers Melody her guitar back on the condition that the protagonist agrees to come back home to her. As insurance, she insists that he submit a resignation in writing to Hank before she returns the instrument.

  • Bug deconstructed it here.
  • Dinosaur Comics had it debated here and here.
  • Kevin & Kell: A December 1998 arc reveals that Franklin Dewclaw had a clause in his will that Kell would only inherit their family heirlooms if she divorced Kevin. If not, they'd go to Ralph... who promptly starts listing them for sale online, until Kevin takes up a temp job as a mall Santa to earn the money needed to buy them himself. Franklin's spirit soon returns to apologize for his actions after seeing Ralph and Kevin's respective actions.
  • The first version is used in this PartiallyClips strip.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of the Beetlejuice cartoon show, the Ghost with the Most wins several million dollars in a sweepstakes, but he has to promise not to use his powers to prank people before the company running the sweepstakes will give him the prize (the company added the rule when they learned that Beetlejuice won). After he tries to flaunt his wealth and is dissed and snubbed for being "Nouveau Riche" and worse insulting Lydia, BJ decides the money isn't worth not being able to give stuck-up jerks what-for.
  • An episode of Calvin and the Colonel has the Colonel sabotaging his sister-in-law's wedding after he finds the will of her deceased first husband, which stipulates that the $300 a month she gets from his estate (of which the Colonel gets $200 as per the agreement when he married his wife) will be cut off if she remarries. After the Colonel succeeds in stopping the wedding, he finds out that the money would have gone directly to him if she remarried.
  • Casper And Friends has several episodes not featuring Casper the Friendly Ghost. One is about a rich cat living large and being waited upon by her butler. It quickly changes as soon as the butler chances upon the will and learns he's the next to inherit. His several attempts to off the cat fail and the last one ends with his own demise. The cat then phones asking for a new butler.
  • On The Cleveland Show, Cleveland Jr. inherits his late mother's fortune, on the condition that his father (a) not be told how much he inherited, and (b) not be given, or even lent, any of the money. In the end, as a twist to the trope, Cleveland Jr. still has the money, but there's a Reset Button of sorts in that it has not been referenced in any way since then.
  • In The Flintstones episode "A Haunted House Is Not A Home", Fred inherits money and a mansion from his eccentric uncle Giggles Flintstone. But, to receive it, he must spend one night in the mansion or he will be disinherited. And, if he dies, the inheritance goes to the butler, cook, and gardener, all of whom are wielding large weapons...
    • And then Fred finds out one important fact about dear uncle Giggles. He's not dead yet. The whole thing was a prank — the real condition was to see if Fred had a sense of humor like his uncle's. "Well," says Fred as he smiles evilly at his uncle, "I'm kind of a kook myself..." He then pulls a large weapon of his own on Giggles and proceeds to chase him and his servants around as he adds, "Not rich, but still a kook!"
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: The main point of Madame Foster's deal with Mac; Bloo will be prevented from adoption under the condition Mac comes to visit him every day.
  • One episode of Freaky Stories featured a wealthy man who wasn't on speaking terms with any friend or relative and made a will leaving his fortune to anyone who bothered to attend the funeral. The only person to do it was an old woman who didn't even know him. She simply needed a bathroom and crashing the funeral was the only option.
  • Futurama: In "The Honking", Bender inherits a fortune left by his Uncle Vlad, on the condition he spends the night in Vlad's creepy haunted mansion and that he isn't responsible for Vlad's death. As Bender flees the mansion in terror, he gets run-over by a "werecar" and catches an odd form of robot-lycanthropy. The trope itself is briefly parodied in the episode. When Bender learns he's inherited the castle, his first reaction is, "Cool! Let's stay there tonight!" Upon being told that he has to stay there the night to receive the inheritance, this becomes, "Aw, man, we have to stay in some musty old castle?"
  • The Get Along Gang: Zipper has once received an inheritance on the condition he claims it within a stipulated deadline and several people who liked the next one to inherit would do anything to sabotage him. Ironically, they ended up destroying the next one's house. Zipper then let her keep the money.
  • In Hot Stuff, the gods give the first caveman fire on the condition that he not be careless with it, lest it destroy everything. While the caveman abides by this, a present-day man and woman are Too Dumb to Live with it.
  • Hurricanes: Napper Thompson inherited his uncle's fortune on the condition that he never plays soccer (the uncle disapproved of Napper's career as a soccer player) ever again. The next heir's identity is kept secret and two people hoped to be the next heir: another relative and the uncle's business partner. Once Napper lost the inheritance, it went to the uncle's valet.
  • In Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Howard Stark made a will stating that Tony must graduate high school with no problem in order to have full control over his inheritance. Failure will result in the creation of a fund to manage the Stark fortune.
  • A frequent plot in Looney Tunes shorts.
    • The Wabbit Who Came to Supper: Bugs Bunny moves in with Elmer Fudd when Fudd's Uncle Louie wills him his entire fortune provided he does not harm any animals, especially rabbits. In the end, Elmer DOES manage to curb his anger long enough to get the money... and immediately loses it all (and then some) to taxes.
    • From Hare To Heir uses both the "humiliating restrictions" and "murder" plots together. A broke Yosemite Sam inherits a large lump sum of cash on the condition that the executor of the will (namely, Bugs Bunny) will deduct whatever amount he deems appropriate whenever Sam loses his temper. As the amount left inevitably dwindles due to his famous hair-trigger rage, he tries to kill off Bugs before it's all gone. In the end, Sam manages to suppress his temper and demonstrates by having his servants rough him up, but Bugs gives an aside to the audience revealing Sam had used up all the money by that point.
    • In The Fair Haired Hare, Sam builds his house over Bugs's rabbit hole; a judge grants them joint custody, with the stipulation that if one of them dies, the other will get full rights to the property. Sam's poorly disguised murder attempts start soon after.
    • In "Lighter Than Hare", there's a rare non-monetary instance where Bugs Bunny pulls this with a robot going against a drone Yosemite Sam Of Outer Space uses (all dialogue in stilted robotic voice):
      Bugs's robot: Eh, what's up doc?
      Sam's robot: I'll show you what's up. (pulls ray gun) Come with me or I'll blast you.
      Bugs's robot: I'll go with you on one condition. That you don't press this button. (points to button on body)
      Sam's robot: Oh, yeah? Well, no earth robot is going to tell me which button I can't press. I'm a-pressin'. (press button; gets clobbered by mallet protruding from Bugs' robot)
    • The feature-length movie Daffy Duck's Quackbusters had Daffy goldbricking his way into inheriting the massive fortune of millionaire J.P. Cubish. He thinks he's in the clear once Cubish dies, only to find out that a clause in the will that Daffy be ethical with the money causes a chunk of it to vanish into the spirit world every time he does something dirty.
    • There's also the one-shot short Dough Ray Me-ow where a pet parrot named Louie finds out that Heathcliff, the dimwit cat he lives with (and can't stand), is actually the heir to their owner's fortune. Upon learning this, Louie tries to bump Heathcliff off so he can take his place, but the usually accident-prone cat suddenly proves very resistant to harm. He seems to succeed by the end, as Heathcliff's nine lives start leaving him. But Louie brags about the fortune, causing the lives to return and Heathcliff to declare that if he can't take it with him, he's not leaving!
  • The series Mad Jack the Pirate had an episode where Mad Jack inherited a treasure from his Uncle Mortimer, after whom the episode was titled. However, the will stipulated a condition: Uncle Mortimer's body and his dog must be taken to the Island of Hanna-Barbarian. The condition is fulfilled despite the adversities but, since Mad Jack must never be wealthy by an episode's ending, the treasure consisted of a chest full of dog biscuits.
  • Mickey Mouse Works: A Mickey Mouse story mixed this with Around the World in Eighty Days. Mickey must show punctuality in order to inherit his Uncle's fortune. Scrooge McDuck, executor of the will, demands Mickey to do the around the world travel. Otherwise, Scrooge gets the money.
  • Pippi Longstocking: In "Pippi Visits Aunt Matilda", Blom & Dunder-Karlsson learn that Blom's Aunt Matilda bequeathed her whole fortune to him on the condition that he reforms and severs ties with his bad companions, especially Dunder-Karlsson, and that it'll be up to Pippi to evaluate Blom. They try to act nice to convince Matilda that both of them reformed but, once her doctor says she'll likely live for the next 30 years, they give up.
  • Precious Pupp once believed he was about to inherit a fortune and that, if something happened to him, a dog named Mauler would get the money. True to his name, Mauler spent most of the episode trying to get rid of Precious. In the end, Precious' mistress got her new glasses and found out she misread the will: Mauler is the first to inherit and Precious is the second.
  • Punky Brewster: The episode "Punky's Millions" has an instance dealing with winnings as opposed to an inheritance: Punky and her foster father Henry Warnimont win a jackpot on a TV show. To collect it, however, they have to spend $1 million in a week. The task falls upon Punky and her pals when Henry comes down with chickenpox. Come the end of the week, and the total seems to show that Punky succeeded—until Allen accidentally spills some loose change from a candy bar he bought with the money from the million. All ends well, however, as Glomer bought a lottery ticket that cashed in big.
  • In the episode of The Real Ghostbusters "The Haunting of Heck House" the Ghostbusters stood to inherit a vast fortune as long as they stayed in the most haunted house on Earth for a night. Seems easy for guys like them, right? Here's the catch — they had to stay without their proton packs. To defeat the house (which eventually tries its best to kill them) they have to use the wiring inside to turn it into one big ghost trap. Unfortunately the house is SO haunted that spiritual energy takes up most of the structure, so it collapses in on itself and they're forced to leave it or be crushed inside. Sadly, the lawyer sees this before time runs out, and is forced by the conditions of the will to deny them the cash since there was no self-preservation escape clause provided in the will; they HAD to stay in the house even if doing so killed them.
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle Bullwinkle stands to inherit a "million pound note" from the Earl of Crankcase's estate provided he makes it through a week in the Earl's mansion. The Earl's devious nephew's are next in line and try to trick him into leaving early with help from Boris and Natasha. They fail, but at the final reading, what seemed like a birthmark on Bullwinkle's foot was really an imprint from a bath mat he stepped on every day, disqualifying him. The villains then receive the "million-pound note", which turned out to be a literal million-pound IOU.
    • And then it turned out Bullwinkle really did have the birthmark on his other foot.
  • Scooby-Doo:
    • In the Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! episode A Night of Fright is No Delight, Scooby is one of five heirs to Colonel Beauregard Sanders, and each heir gets an equal portion of the fortune on the condition they spend the night in the colonel's mansion. The caveat: it's haunted. The gang manages to solve the case — as you'd expect, the lawyers got creative with — and Scooby wins by default... except it's all Confederate bills (once backed by a government but now that government doesn't exist). Confederate banknotes are worth a lot of money to historical collectors. This never occurred to the writers, nor the Scooby Gang, who treat it as a total loss. There's also the question of how the Colonel was able to keep a mansion that size if all his liquid capital was in a type of money that he couldn't use to pay his taxes or grocery bills with.
    • The later film Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers has Shaggy inherit a mansion and estate, complete with the money to hold it for a lifetime, from his uncle Beauregard (no relation to the character from the aforementioned episode). The mansion is haunted, the local hicks enjoy shooting at anyone related to Beauregard, the creepy butler feels entitled to Shaggy's inherited fortune, and the colonel hid said fortune — a king's ransom worth of family jewels — somewhere on the estate, hidden behind a treasure hunt that he creates for Shaggy to solve. The ghost exterminators that Shaggy calls, the Boo Brothers, turn out to be a trio of ghosts themselves, and although the film's villain was impersonating most of the ghosts, the haunting by the colonel was real. Not to mention that there was an escaped circus gorilla running around as well as a wild bear on the property. In the end, Shaggy puts the family jewels in a trust fund for orphans and gives the mansion to the Boo Brothers.
    • In the Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? episode "The Nightmare Ghost of Psychic U!", the titular university's founder made a will saying that, if it closes, the property goes to his nearest living relative.
  • The Simpsons subverted the "spending a night in the haunted house" version. The whole thing is set up in the first scene, but the night passes by in a single scene transition, with the family exiting the manor after "the best night's sleep I've had in years". Doubly subverted as the inheritance proves to be not that great to begin with.
    • According to the executor of the will, 'spending a night in a haunted house' is a "standard clause".
    • Played with at the end of the episode "Homer Loves Flanders" lampshading the Aesop Amnesia trope of Homer hating Flanders again a week later. Homer announces his Great Uncle Boris died leaving them a haunted house. He spends a weekend there to prove him wrong... which ends with the family in the house, screaming in terror.
    • Played straight in the episode "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'": At the end of WWII, Abe Simpson's squad, the "Flying Hellfish" set up a collection of priceless German paintings to be inherited by the last survivor of the squad. During the episode, one of the last three members dies, leaving only Abe and Burns remaining. Burns spends the rest of the episode trying to kill Abe, who eventually gets fed up and dishonorably discharges Burns from the squad, thus expelling him from the inheritance. Of course, because Status Quo Is God, the U.S. State Department suddenly arrives to confiscate the paintings and give them to their rightful owner (a rude German yuppie) for diplomatic purposes.
    • In another episode, Abe inherited one hundred and some thousands of dollars from a girlfriend. Her lawyer told him he'd have to spend a night in a haunted house but then he explained he was joking. Nothing was required of him as a condition to keep the money.
    • "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble" has Bart switching places with an identical rich boy named Simon, and it turns out that his step-siblings are planning to kill him to get his inheritance. Lampshaded by Mr. Burns, who tells "Simon" that he had many siblings, but since they all died of different causes, he inherited the family fortune, clueing Bart in on the fact that he's being targeted.
  • Stunt Dawgs: In the episode "Fungustein", a robot named Scabulator drove the title characters jobless and one of them asked where they'd get the money to survive. Noticing the others staring at him, Splat said the terms of the will forbid him from doing any charity.
  • TaleSpin: The episode "The Balooest of the Bluebloods" had Baloo learn he was the last surviving member of the Von Bruenwald family, and thus inherited the title of Baron and a large estate. The estate is supposedly haunted, as 12 former Barons have all died in suspicious accidents there. (Yep, he's number 13.) Baloo survives long enough to uncover that the estate's caretakers were behind the deaths, they're arrested, and he enjoys the newfound wealth for about 3 seconds until a banker shows up and tells him the estate must be liquidated to satisfy outstanding debts (and it won't be enough).
  • In Tex Avery's MGM short Wags to Riches (originally as Millionaire Droopy), a millionaire dies and leaves his fortune to Droopy, with a clause that in the event of Droopy's death the entire estate will revert to his other dog, Spike... who naturally spends the cartoon trying (unsuccessfully) to bump Droopy off.
  • The Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Million-Dollar Cat" had Tom inheriting a sizeable fortune on the condition he not harm another animal, not even a mouse. Jerry pesters him until he can't take anymore, and the cartoon closes with Tom remarking "Gee...I'm throwing away a million dollars... but I'm HAPPY!" while trying to clobber Jerry with a broken board.
  • In Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats, Mrs. Vandergelt left her fortune to her niece Amy. Because of her disappearance, Benny was the next in line. If anything happened to him within the next 48 hours, the butler would get the fortune.
    Top Cat: Ah, Beverly Hills. When they try to kill ya, they do it with class.
  • Wally Gator once inherited an island on the condition that, should something happen to him, whoever lived in the island would be the next inheritor. The island's resident accidentally caused it to sink as a result of his efforts to rid himself of Wally.
  • In Wild West COW Boys Of Moo Mesa episode "Wedding Bull Blues", it's been seven years ever since Colonel Cudster left Cowtown to look for more gold and left his daughter in charge of his gold mine. Because of that, Mayor Bulloney tried to invoke an old law to have Colonel Cudster pronounced Legally Dead and the gold mine confiscated, only to find Cudster had bequeathed the mine to another in his will. Unfortunately, the terms of the will identified Cudster's daughter Cowlamity Kate "and her husband" as heirs, meaning it wouldn't be valid unless Kate was actually married by the end of the day her father was pronounced dead, leading her to ask Dakota to marry her (which he agreed to) in order to save her inheritance. The wedding almost happened, but a letter from Cudster, dated just the day before, arrived in time to prevent him from being declared dead. At which point, both Kate and Dakota declared they were not quite ready for marriage.
  • In the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Billion Dollar Boner, a man named O'Houlihan gets a billion-dollar check — on the condition that he cannot do any harm to a bird. Woody then proceeds to antagonize him. At the end of the episode, it's revealed that the check is a rubber fake.
  • Yogi Bear: Ranger Smith once inherited a fortune but had to live in the mansion he inherited. When he got word about Yogi's health condition, he returned to the park.

  • Fenspace: The various Fenspace Convention members who colonised the Moon ceded the original Apollo landing sites to the United States government, but stipulated that the landing sites be added to the National Historic Landmark list and that the surrounding land be turned into a national park, in order to preserve the site in as close to original condition as possible. (An exception was made for the Alan Sheppard Memorial Golf Course because it was deemed a fitting tribute.)
  • A horoscope in The Onion parodies this.
    Leo: You'll be forced to dress up as a member of the opposite sex and adopt a monkey in order to inherit $1 million, but it'll go off without a hitch.

    Real Life 
  • It should go without saying that this is often subverted in real life. Any will that requires a potential inheritor to undertake an illegal or impossible activity would obviously be thrown out in Probate. That being said...
  • A rich Toronto lawyer, financier and practical joker named Charles Vance Millar, wrote in his will that he wanted the bulk of his estate to be given to the Toronto woman who birthed the most legitimate children in the 10 years after his death. The money he left was well invested and grew significantly over the ten years. During the same time, the Great Depression hit, which made a lot of people more desperate for money. This sparked the Great Stork Derby that went the full length of time with 4 winners and two runners-up despite frantic efforts to kill the will in the courts.
    • That's not the end of it: he also bequeathed joint possession of his summer cottage to three men who loathed each other and a very profitable Catholic distillery to several (Protestant) prominent temperance advocates in the Orange Order (on the condition that they take active part in running the brewery).
  • The Rule Against Perpetuities exists in the UK, the US, and other countries that inherited the Common Law. In its most common form, it simply states "No conditional bequest is valid unless it must vest, if at all, within a life in being plus 21 years." It works to prevent somebody from controlling their assets from beyond the grave forever (i.e. "in perpetuity"). Certain relevant reasonable-but-ridiculous legal illustrations showing why you don't want to be in arms reach include:
    • The "fertile octogenarian". The will leaves land to person A, aged 85, for her life, then to the first of her natural-born children to reach age 25. Since theoretically she could have a new child at 86note , have her other children die at 87, then die herself at 88, it is possible for the second part to be unfulfilled for 21 years after all the relevant people died. Thus, the second part is completely invalid, and the old lady inherits the land absolutely (it's up to her what happens to it after her death).
    • The "unborn widow". The will leaves the property to person A for life, then their widow for life, and then any of their children still living at the time of the widow's death. If person A marries a person born after the will was executed, and the widow lives more than 21 years after person A dies, then the last condition would not activate within 21 years after person A dies; thus, the last condition is rendered invalid. Alternately, A might not be married when he dies, in which case there is no person who could become his widow, or A might divorce and remarry, in which case the widow at the time the will activates is not the widow referred to by the person who wrote the original will. The will might not prescribe A's children still living and instead simply refer to A's children, in which case it would refer to those children alive at the time of the will's activation and still be valid.
    • Some jurisdictions specify that if a deceased person is named as the heir, and the will does not contain a legitimate second-to-die clause, the named heir's children stand to inherit that property. So, if A had three children, and one of those children died before A, leaving two children of his own, A's two surviving children would each get 1/3 of the estate, while the two grandchildren by the deceased sibling would each get 1/6.
    • Many U.S. jurisdictions now take a "wait and see" approach; if the will vests or fails within 90 years of the descendant's death, it's valid, even if a circumstance could have arisen (but didn't) that would have made the waiting period longer. Incidentally, the Rule Against Perpetuities applies not only to bequeathments in wills but also to property placed into a Trust (including a trust created while the Grantor was still alive).
    • There is a case in California involving legal malpractice due to a lawyer's failure to apprehend the rule against perpetuities. The California high court ruled that "no reasonable lawyer" can understand the rule. To prove the complexity and often inanity of the rule, the above description isn't entirely correct.
  • This trope is Truth in Television in the USA with regards to religion. Courts in Oregon (National Bank of Portland v. Snodgrass) and Illinois (Feinberg v. Feinberg) upheld heirs being stripped of their inheritances for marrying outside their religions or, in the case of the former, marrying a Catholic.
  • This trope is also Truth in Television for heirs of a certain age. Some will not allow a teen or person in their 20s to inherit money on the grounds that they will spend it all quickly and/or foolishly. It is legal to bar an heir from inheriting until they reach a certain age where they are (hopefully) wise enough to manage money.