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Rejecting the Inheritance

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"When my parents died, I inherited wealth beyond imagining. And I gave it away, because I wanted to demonstrate that I could achieve anything, starting from nothing."
Adrian Veidt, Watchmen (2019)

The rules of inheritance can lead to a lot of interesting situations. There could be a Game Between Heirs, or someone might kill for it. A will may be forged, the true will may have disappeared, and sometimes it can all only be given On One Condition. The common idea, in the end, is that characters will go to great lengths to get their inheritance.

...Not including this guy. For whatever reason, they aren't interested in their inheritance. In fact, they openly reject it. The reasons for this may vary: The inheritance itself may be to blame, with it being risky, unpleasant, or in opposition to their own goals and values. It may also come with a debt to pay or a position the heir doesn't want, with a good dose of potential Prestige Peril. The will could be responsible, if it's too ridiculous or made out of spite. Alternatively, the heir might just be rebellious, uninterested in their family, or they may just feel they aren't fit for what it is they'd inherit. The inheritance may also be renounced after the fact, for the same reasons as above.

Others are likely to find this troubling, at the very least, if not be outright furious that they'd reject their inheritance. After all, some people would do anything for it, and this character just wants to say no? However, if there's anyone in the family who would've had a Passed-Over Inheritance otherwise, their rebellion might be seen as a positive thing, at least for the other character involved. Similarly, this may either end up working in the rejector's favor or be treated as a problem to fix with some maturity and time.

Can be Truth in Television.

Contrast Passed-Over Inheritance and Inadequate Inheritor, where the character's inheritance is denied or seen as being undeserved. A Defector from Decadence might reject their inheritance on moral grounds if it was obtained illegally, amorally, or unethically. Supertrope of Rebel Prince.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Captain Tsubasa: Wakashimazu is the Heir to the Dojo of his father's karate school. However, he refuses, preferring to pursue a career in soccer instead.
  • At the end of Ojojojo, Haru passes on inheriting her family's business empire and lets her little sister have it instead since they started getting bad PR once the fact that her boyfriend was a former child assassin became public knowledge. She ends up founding her own company (with the same name), the same one that Kobayashi works for in Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid.
  • Reborn! (2004): When Tsuna learns he's the last eligible heir to an Italian empire crime, he freaks out and immediately refuses the honour. Even when forced into various mishaps and adventures, he stubbornly maintains he's not going to inherit.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Accords, Eliza Summers was raised in a wealthy white family, but cut herself off from her parents after learning that she was the product of an affair between her father and a secretary, who her father paid off in exchange for her biological mother renouncing all claims to her and leaving the country. Now, she seeks to make it on her own, although she is not above goading her parents into loaning her money to fund her activism.
  • The Runaways have mostly renounced whatever they inherited from their wealthy parents, as their parents were all supervillains and thus much of their fortunes came from criminal activities. They do hold on to a few of their parents' old homes, though, and Karolina has reluctantly accepted royalties from her parents' old movies and TV shows, which she has used to pay for college and an apartment and to keep her parents' old charity afloat.

    Fan Works 
  • Back to Zero: In a twist on their implied relationship in canon, Madame Boss does care for her only child Giovanni and, if anything, spoils him. She calls him a brat because he does act like a rich, spoiled brat. Giovanni starts off as a 20-year old party boy who doesn't even care about ruling over Team Rocket. Madame Boss ultimately decides to sign her best agent, Miyamoto, as the successor instead. It didn't work out as planned and Giovanni ultimately succeeded his mother.
  • By the time of the epilogue in Son of the Sannin, Shino stepped down as heir to the Aburame clan and moved to Takigakure to serve as an ambassador (and marry his longtime girlfriend Fu).

    Films— Live-Action 
  • Towards the end of Crazy Rich Asians, Nick gets fed up with his meddling mother and grandmother after they drive his fiancée away and threatens to renounce the family fortune unless they back off.
  • In Tomb Raider (2018), Laura refuses to sign the paperwork allowing her to access her family fortune because it would require her to be tied to the day to day tasks of running her family's business interests, limiting her personal freedom and autonomy.

  • At the end of The Millennium Trilogy, Lizbeth Salander tries to do this with her father's ill-gotten wealth, as much of it was derived from human trafficking and she already has more than enough money as a result of her various jobs, but Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs; her lawyer explains that under the law, she has to give specific instructions on what to do with the inheritance first.
  • In Sea Lord John Rossendale has inherited the title of Earl of Stowey after his older brother committed suicide. The inheritance consists of the Stowey Manor and a very large tax debt. The family hopes to pay off the debt by selling a Van Gogh painting they own but it disappears under mysterious circumstances. Fed up with the situation and unwilling to sacrifice the rest of his life to care for a piece of land, John leaves England and sails the world for the next four years. When his mother dies, he finally returns home and tries to deal with the mess once and for all.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Good Place, Tahani rejects her half of the inheritance upon finding out that her parents didn't care enough about her to spell her name right on their will.
  • Outlander: Jocasta has no living heirs and needs someone to whom she can bequeath her highly profitable plantation once she dies. She initially tries to leave it to Jamie and Claire, given Jamie's experience as a Laird in Scotland, but as Claire is from the 20th century, she's horrified by the idea of owning slaves. Jocasta then tries to leave it to Claire's daughter, Brianna, but like her mother, Brianna was raised in the 20th century with Black friends and the idea of owning slaves is appalling. Jocasta eventually bequeaths it to baby Jemmy, Brianna's newborn son. However, the books reveal that as a Loyalist, the Revolutionary War forces Jocasta to escape to Canada for safety, leaving her plantation to likely be seized by local Colonial government and rewarded to Continental-supporting families.
  • Game of Thrones: Jon Snow, after finding out he is the trueborn son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, repeatedly refuses to claim his birthright as King of the Seven Kingdoms.
  • One of the maids in Victoria rejects the inheritance she has been left by an American family member after she discovers that the inheritance is a number of slaves to be sold. She gives them their freedom papers instead of taking the cash value of the slaves.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest VII: Prince Kiefer is the crown prince of the kingdom of Estard, but he hates it and is always running off to have adventures with the hero. His father, however, doesn't like his risky behavior and keeps locking him up in the palace, only for Kiefer to escape later and go adventuring with the hero anyway. His father's greatest fears eventually come true when Kiefer chooses to stay in the past with the woman he loves, and is never seen or heard from again. This is even worse when we find out that the "past" that Kiefer stayed in took place centuries ago, so he is most likely dead.
  • Mortal Kombat X: Due to Parental Abandonment, this is the case with father Kenshi Takahashi and son Takeda Takahashi. As Kenshi was running undercover missions for the Special Forces, he had to protect his wife Suchin who, unbeknownst to him, gave birth to Takeda. As such, Kenshi never knew he had a son, only after his cover was blown during a covert ops mission and the Red Dragon told him of such fact, and Takeda resented him for not being there when he needed it, to the point of even rejecting the inheritance of Kenshi's telepathy.
    Takeda: At least you grew up with people expecting things from you.
    Jacqui: I thought you and your dad were best friends.
    Takeda: Now. He was a no-show for a long time.
    Jacqui: Being the son of a telepath also has its perks.
    Takeda: I didn't used to think so.
    Takeda: (to Kenshi) Ten years. No visits, nothing. You abandoned me... I was eight! My mother had just died! Now you come back; think you can jump right in as the proud dad?! (...) To Hell with you! I am NOT your son!
  • Overwatch: Hanzo got into a fight with his brother Genji, and believes him dead: so Hanzo abdicates from his inherited position as clan leader out of shame. Genji comes back as a cyborg and forgives his brother. This is related to a Japanese story that might be the ur-example, about two dragon brothers.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Subverted with Amanda in Daughter for Dessert. When Cecilia first offers her the chance to claim her mother's inheritance on the condition that she abandons her father, her first response is to say that the protagonist is more important to her than money. However, she warms up to accepting when she learns details about her mother's past that he didn’t tell her. Then, when he breaks into Cecilia’s hotel room to tell her the whole truth, Amanda walks away from her inheritance for good.

    Web Animation 
  • Otakebi: Izumi gives up her share of the family inheritance just so she wouldn't have to see her brother (who constantly bullies her) and her parents (who do nothing to stop it) ever again. Her brother agrees, as he doesn't want to see Izumi again, and both siblings finalize the terms in writing; the brother keeps the money on the condition of caring for his parents as they get older.

    Web Video 
  • My Dad's Tapes: Uncle Don tries to pass on the family inheritance to Chris, who vehemently refuses to take it, due to the fact that this "inheritance" is turning oneself into a woman-murdering serial killer.

    Western Animation 
  • The Tom and Jerry short Million Dollar Cat has Tom obtaining a million-dollar inheritance from a dead aunt On One Condition: he must never again hurt any living being, even a mouse, or else the fortune will be taken away immediately. This condition is then exploited by Jerry to bully Tom in every way possible, knowing that reminding him will make Tom back off. Tom eventually reaches the absolute limit of his patience, however, and attacks Jerry, starting by force-feeding him the part of the telegram explaining the will that reads "even a mouse", making Jerry literally eat his words.
    Tom: (talking to the audience as he holds on to Jerry's tail, despondently) Gee, I'm tossing away a million dollars. (Gleefully) BUT I'M HAPPY!!! (Keeps attacking Jerry, shouting with glee)

    Real Life 
  • As many children of poor and/or prodigal parents found out the bad way, if the inheritance consists of more debts than property or fortune, rejecting the inheritance becomes the sensible choice. Depends on the legal system, though.
  • There have been instances of tobacco company heirs refusing to take money earned from the sale of tobacco products.
  • Since changes were made in the early 1960s in Britain to peerages, it is now necessary for someone to renounce their peerage to be a member of the House of Commons. Sir Alec Douglas-Home and Tony Benn have both renounced their peerages for this reason. The procedure for disclaiming a peerage was actually invented for Tony Benn, who as a left-leaningnote  Labour frontbencher found the peerage he had inherited embarrassing, and he took advantage of it as soon as he could. Lord Home's use of the disclamation process was unexpected, but widely regarded as required, as by the 1960s a Prime Minister had to lead from the Commons.