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Spiteful Will

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"... To my layabout, brain-defective sons, Blutarch and Redmond, I leave the greatest curse of all: partnership. What land I have purchased in this new world is to be split evenly between you both. You have wasted your lives bickering over nothing, and so I leave you dimwits something of consequence over to which to feud."
Zephaniah Mann (last will and testament, and the reason for the Forever War), Team Fortress 2
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Following a person's death, their will must be read to their family an associates to determine who is legally entitled to any potential inheritance.

Spiteful individuals will use their will to deliver one final "The Reason You Suck" Speech to one, or all, of them and ensure that any inheritance directed towards them will make their lives as miserable as possible (often by invoking that it is On One Condition or by leaving them out entirely). Common in Black Comedy media, where the dead in question (almost always a curmudgeonly, elderly Jerkass) will no doubt use their will to get the last laugh on their Sitcom Arch-Nemesis or gold digging relatives in death.

May result from the relatives being Inadequate Inheritors in the eyes of the deceased, almost always combined with Silly Will when Played for Laughs. Compare Dying Declaration of Hate, which is done as the person is dying rather than being prepared while "of sound mind".

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While they may exist in Real Life to a certain extent (there's no rule that forcing you to leave anything to someone you don't like, after all), the absurd degrees of spite that fictional examples tend to show would probably lead to a court hearing under the reasoning that this is not something a person of "sound mind" would place in a legal document.


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher MAX: During the "Kitchen Irish" arc, Old Man Nesbitt (the incredibly ancient head of The Irish Mob) was well-known for his hatred of everyone under his orders, repeating his catchphrase "Shower o' cunts" ad nauseum. In his will, he leaves his fortune to four of them in the form of partial codes, fully expecting them to murder one another to get it. In fact, the four survivors agree to share their codes to spite Nesbitt (who was greatly responsible for their evil lifestyle thanks to his constant insults, put-downs, and molesting)... only to see the inheritance consists of a block of C4 with a 5-second timer. With "cunts" written on it.
  • In the 1952 Batman story "Joker's Millions", later adapted as an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, The Joker inherits millions of dollars from recently deceased mob boss King Barlowe. The Joker starts recklessly spending money on everything he can think of and ends up owing a ton of back taxes. The real kicker comes in when he learns that only the first $10 million he inherited was real money, while the rest is Counterfeit Cash, since Barlowe's last will was merely a huge gag at the Joker's expense.

    Fan Works 
  • The Archer fanfic, The Last Will and Testament of Arthur Woodhouse both plays this trope straight and subverts it. The subversion comes from the other members of ISIS and Ron who receive rather pleasant things from Woodhouse following his demise. As for Malory and Archer (who is in a coma since this fic takes place after the season 7 finale), the former receives a huge confession that Woodhouse has been defrauding her while the latter receives a punch from the executor, though Archer technically qualifies as a subversion since, again, he’s in a coma and absent from the will reading. Though Woodhouse does give Archer a Pet the Dog part of his will by trying to tell him the identity of his biological father, but Malory, in a rage, destroys the will before this is said.
  • In Harry Potter fanfiction, it's almost a genre of its own for a character (usually Sirius Black or Harry Potter) to write one of these in order to vent their grievances against those who betrayed them - in Harry's case it's usually combined with Ron the Death Eater, with several characters only befriending Harry because they were promised part of his fortune in the case of Harry's death. Sometimes in this case, Harry has actually faked his death and is using the will to call out his "friends" while he wills most of his money to a false identity he has built for himself.
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    Films 
  • Knives Out is a subversion. Christopher Plummer’s wealthy character leave every single ounce of resource he had to his personal nurse while his bad family doesn’t get anything. However, he doesn't leave them anything out of spite but as a genuine want for them to better themselves without the need for his resources.

    Literature 
  • Soul Music: One of Susan's first cases (she takes up the Duty as her grandfather is absent) is a horrible old man who's hidden his will from his obnoxious relatives. And as they start tearing up the room looking for it, the man's ghost reveals it's in the cat's basket... and he left everything to the cat. Not even as kindness — he hated the cat as well, so he fully expects his family to kill the cat before turning on each other.
  • In the John Grisham novel The Testament, billionaire Troy Phelan presents the lawyers representing his ex-wives and multiple heirs with a will guaranteeing them each of them a sizeable portion of his estate. As soon as they have left the room, he presents his own lawyers with a new will which overrides the previous one — and which will only give everyone just enough money to pay off their debts and leaves everything else to an illegitimate daughter — then throws himself out of a window.
    • In a case of Reality Ensues, this then provokes a challenge from the disenfranchised heirs about Troy Phelan's mental competency (even though they went to great pains to prove his competency prior to him signing the will they liked) and the court battle to put the estate into probate is contentious at best, and the heirs end up getting quite a bit of money anyway.
  • In Middlemarch elderly Edward Causabon says in his will that if his young wife marries his cousin after his death she gets cut out of his will (she turns out to have a small amount of money of her own).
  • The Doctor's Case, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche by Stephen King, hinges on one; a rich man dies having recently threatened to change his will and leave everything to a cat shelter, but he died before the changes could be made, leaving the original will in place and the wife and sons all suspects in the murder. They all were involved to some extent, but he was such an Asshole Victim that Holmes and Watson let them get away with it.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Jane the Virgin: Rafael receives this treatment when his father dies. His father's will said that he's only leaving money to his biological children (his sister Luisa, Rafael was adopted when he was younger) and Rafael was left with nothing.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "The Masks", a dying millionaire changes his will to force his heirs to wear hideous masks for one night or be disinherited, while he himself wears a death's-head mask. He gleefully informs each of them how his or her mask embodies that heir's individual character flaws. The heirs complain, but each is driven by greed to keep the masks on. At the end of the night the millionaire is dead of natural causes and all the heirs' faces have been transformed to the shape of their mask.
  • One episode of WKRP in Cincinnati opens with Jennifer dating an older man who suddenly dies in the middle of dinner. She attends his will reading which is done via videotape and he gratuitously insults his relatives. She, however, is granted a large sum of money which she announces will be used for a parade to honor veterans.
  • In the It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Dennis and Dee's Mom is Dead", Dennis and Dee’s mother and Frank’s ex-wife Barbra left her family a will in the event of her death (having died during a botched neck-lift). She leaves Dennis with the lavish family mansion as long as Frank is not allowed anywhere near it and her lover (and the actual father of Dennis and Dee) Bruce Mathis her half of the settlement, while leaving Frank (whose fortune she laundered, being the Gold Digger that she is) and Dee (who she views as "a disappointment and a mistake", despite being twins with Dennis) absolutely nothing. She even asks to be buried with her jewelry, showing the kind of person she was.
  • Jessica Jones: When Dorothy dies, she leaves Jessica the contents of her liquor cabinet as a pointed reference to Jessica's drinking habit.
  • Married... with Children: In Stymie Bundy's will, he tells Al to take his hand off his pants, which he begrudgingly complies, expresses his hopes that Al will rid himself of the redhead who kept stealing his wallet, and calls his relatives "vultures".
  • Murder, She Wrote: In the first Expanded Universe novel, Gin and Daggers, murder victim Marjorie Ainsworth uses her will to insult several of her heirs, including leaving a massive debt to her sister and brother-in-law (apparently he'd spent a great deal of her money at certain establishments and now she wants him to pay the bills they sent her with his own funds), and claiming that several of her associates involved in publishing her works in both Britain and the U.S. had been stealing a portion of her royalties. It's subverted for her niece (and primary caretaker) and Jessica Fletcher, who both receive compliments and large sums from her.
    • The episode "Test of Wills" had a millionaire leave a will that did nothing but insult everyone in his family, even his granddaughter who was always kind to him, and leaving his fortune to Jessica. It later turned out the millionaire was still alive and the will was a fake meant to gauge everyone's reactions. His granddaughter is outraged when she learns the truth and calls him out on his cruelty, while her spineless mother tries to force her to apologize so they get back in his good graces.
  • The George Lopez Show: After Claudia, the ex-wife of Angie's brother, dies, she announces in a video will that she'll be handing control of Veronica's inheritance over to a trustee who will determine when she is responsible enough to control it. She asks Vic to step forward...and tells him to kiss George's ass, choose George as the trustee.

    Radio 
  • The Frantics' "Last Will and Temperament" skit takes the form of a will reading which consists of everyone present being called out on their flaws and receiving a "boot to the head" (except the lawyer reading the will, who instead is bequeathed a rabid Tasmanian devil placed in his trousers).

    Video Games 
  • The Miser's Will in Diablo 3:
    To my sniveling offspring: if you are reading this, then I am dead and you have come to claim my fortune. Well, you still can't have it! I have set traps to stop you from even trying. So, enjoy the rest of your poor, miserable, and cowardly lives.
  • Team Fortress 2 exists because of this trope. Zepheniah Mann was convinced by his two sons to purchase large areas of land in frontier America. On his journey over to see his newly purchased land he was struck with almost every illness known to man and was shocked to find it an empty and useless desert. Needless to say: he wasn't happy with his sons and in his will, he never refers to them without some derogatory prefix: "dunderheaded", "addle-pated", "layabout", and "brain-defective" are all used. As the final spiteful spit he leaves them each half of his estate so they have to work together to get anything done, knowing they would never stop bickering — indeed, it's not long before both resort to hiring mercenaries to take the other half by force, starting their Forever War which is the game's setting.

    Web Comics 
  • Near the end of Ugly Hill, the Kilgore brothers grandfather dies after having spent years estranged from the family after he had a huge falling out with his son and daughter (the main character's mother). Throughout most of the comics run, Mrs. Kilgore would often reference her father's will and threaten to disinherit her own children as a way of keeping them under her thumb, only to discover at the will reading that all her father left them was 500.000$ in credit card debts, much to the brother's amusement.
  • Dominic Deegan: When Luna's mother died as a result of trying to get Luna to commit suicide for monetary compensation, she left her nothing in the will.

    Western Animation 
  • In the South Park episode "Best Friends Forever", after some fond words toward Stan and Kyle, Kenny's will laments that he never liked Cartman, whom he expects will likely die alone due to his Lack of Empathy. However, unlike standard examples, Kenny does hand Cartman the desired inheritance of a games console, if only out of pity.
    • In another episode, Cartman inherits one million dollars from a relative who chose him as her beneficiary because she believed her other relatives would spend her money on crack.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Peter Peter Caviar Eater", Lois' late Aunt Margarite has a rather lavish Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous- style video will, and, like the rest of Lois' family, doesn't turn down the chance to pick a bone with Peter:
    Aunt Margarite: Lois, you were always my favorite niece; I just knew you would find a wonderful man who would make all your dreams come true. But I was wrong.
    Peter: [watching present day] And now you're dead. Score one for Peter.
  • Loretta's will in the spin-off The Cleveland Show is a rather elaborately spiteful example; not only does she not leave a cent to Cleveland and hand it all to their son Junior, but she is also savvy enough to mandate that Junior cannot share any of the money with him as a loophole.
  • When Grandpa Phil is convinced he's dying in a day in Hey Arnold!, he actually does a rare pre-mortem reading of his own will, seemingly wanting to be alive to see the looks on his tenants' faces when he tells them they're getting squat from him.
  • In the Bob's Burgers episode "Mission Impos-slug-ble", Bob is asked to do the eulogy for Harry, the man who used to supply his pickles. Bob thinks it's a mistake since they were on bad terms after he angrily threw a pickle at Harry's face during an argument. After the eulogy, Harry's lawyer throws a pickle at Bob and said "Now we're even", as stipulated in Harry's will.
  • One episode of The Critic has Duke find out he's suffering from a fatal illness (ironically named "Duke Phillip's Disease") and asks Jay to dictate his will.
    Duke: To my ex-wife I leave zilch! ...Nah, she deserves more than that. Custody of my diddley-squad!

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