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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

Following a person's death, their will must be read to their family and 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.

Another manifestation could be leaving their successors a pitifully small inheritance not even worth collecting, disposing of their real wealth elsewhere.

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".

Compare Last Disrespects, where a person who is still alive spites a newly deceased person.

While they may exist in Real Life to a certain extent (there's no rule preventing you from leaving anything to someone you don't like, after all — or least that's the case in some jurisdictions, so always check your local laws), 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. May involve Notary Nonsense, as getting such a will notarized would add some legal legitimacy.


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     Anime & Manga 
  • The Claremont family of The Case Files of Jeweler Richard has a will which states that a 118-carat diamond will be inherited by a spouse of the family... only the spouse has to be married to the child whose mother was born closest to England, and the spouse almost exclusively has to be a traditional British housewife to inherit anything at all. And then the diamond isn't even real and exists solely to punish the man's racist family.

    Comic Books 
  • The Punisher MAX: In 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. Joker frivolously spends the 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 Joker's expense. Being the Sore Loser that he is, Joker reacts negatively to it, knowing that he'd either get jailed for tax evasion or become the Butt-Monkey of Gotham by admitting that a dead man conned him.

    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.
  • In Under Contract, a Phineas and Ferb fanfic, Gretchen's grandmother publicly gives her surviving son thirty pieces of silver for his betrayal of selling Gretchen into indenture.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Subverted in Knives Out. Harlan Thrombey leaves all his assets to his personal nurse while disinheriting the rest of his selfish family. However, he doesn't do this out of spite, but as a genuine desire for them to better themselves without relying on his money.
  • In Murder Mystery, Malcolm Quince gives a chilling "The Reason You Suck" Speech to his family and the guests about them being leeches before announcing that he will change his will so they will go to his trophy wife. Before he could change the will, he is stabbed to death by his son Tobey.
  • In Horror Comedy spoof Saturday The Fourteenth, the deceased uncle who leaves the cursed house to the protagonists also leaves his sister, who'd perennially borrowed his things and never returned them, several thousand overdue library books. Oh, and a raspberry blown at her by his executor.

  • In Daddy's Little Girl, Dorothy Westerfield's last will provides a sympathetic example. She now has good reason to believe her grandson Rob indeed killed his girlfriend Andrea and tried to have her killed as well; she'd apparently suspected it for years but was deep in denial. Faced with proof, she donates most of her vast fortune to charity and doesn't entirely cut Rob out. He gets a dollar, which is honestly worse. note 
  • 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 uses his will as one last "Screw you" to his multiple ex-wives and heirs. He has a doctor certify him as being of sound mind in the presence of all the lawyers representing his beneficiaries, then presents each of them with copies of a will sharing his estate so that everyone gets a sizeable inheritence. 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 whatever debts they have and leaves everything else to an illegitimate daughter — then throws himself out of a window before he can revoke it.
In a case of realism in media, this then provokes a challenge from the disenfranchised heirs about Troy'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.
  • An unusual version in The Thorn Birds, in which Mary Carson actually doesn't leave anyone impoverished. She leaves the bulk of her fortune to Father Ralph DeBricassart while still leaving a good amount to her brother and his family. She's done this because she's bitter that Ralph has rebuffed her and wants to ensure that he'll be permanently separated from the woman he loves because she knows that the desire to ascend in the Catholic Church—which he's certain to do with his newfound wealth—will be greater than the desire to abandon the priesthood and build a life with her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All My Children. Wrongly believing that his wife Maria is cheating on him, Edmund Grey not only cuts her out of his will, he makes his ex-fiancée Brooke the executor, meaning that whenever Maria wants or needs something for their children, she'll have to go to the woman whose relationship with her husband she was always insecure about. note  His actions are especially cruel considering that he was, as stated, wrong.
  • Better Call Saul: When Chuck dies, he only leaves his brother Jimmy $5000 in his will, which Kim recognizes as the amount you give when you want to cut someone out of your will without it being legally contested, a seat on the board of a scholarship committee in Chuck's name, and Jimmy will be allowed to search the remains of Chuck's burned house for keepsakes before the property is liquidated. Kim doesn't take any of this well.
  • A deliciously spiteful one is the plot of thisStudio C sketch. How spiteful is it? See for yourself.
  • 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. As executrix of his will, she reluctantly attends his will reading which is done via videotape and he gratuitously insults his relatives. The relatives expect him to leave everything to Jennifer (in which case they plan to contest it), but in fact he only leaves her one dollar (the first he made). The rest he instructs Jennifer to spend on a parade to honour veterans of his old Army regiment.
  • 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 gets 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 (2015): When Dorothy Walker is killed by Sallinger, she leaves Jessica the contents of her liquor cabinet as a pointed reference to Jessica's drinking habit.
  • Major Crimes has one as an In-Universe example to demonstrate a murder victim's deteriorating physical and mental state. The first video-will has her giving everyone in her family a fair and equal amount only for subsequent videos to show her changing the terms to only one member then another for increasingly petty reasons. The one constant through them all is the victim leaving her massive mansion and a trust fund for the person who oversees the care of her Maltese...Falcon.
  • 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, choosing George as the trustee.
  • A variation in Sisters when matriarch Beatrice seems to have inexplicably done this, given her close relationship with her daughters. First, she makes fifth sister Charlie the executor even though she isn't her biological daughter (she's the result of her husband's affair). Then, she leaves each daughter something that would be more appropriate for another one—she gives Georgie her clothes when Teddy, a fashion designer, would have loved them, etc. Speaking of whom, Teddy gets nothing. They're all bewildered until it turns out that she deliberately did this to ensure that they would remain close and not drift apart without her there.

  • Implied in "Anti-Hero" by Taylor Swift. The narrator mentions a hypothetical scenario in which her daughter-in-law murders her for her fortune, presuming that she and the rest of the family were in the will. However, during the will reading things don't go to plan, with one person screaming that the narrator is "laughing up at us from Hell!"; we don't know the details of the will but it's strongly implied none of the family are getting what they expected and that the narrator intentionally set it up this way. The music video goes into more depth, revealing the children only receive 13 cents and the narrator's cats get her beach house.

  • 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 
  • Diablo 3 has an encounter which consists of several trapped treasure chests and a note named "The Miser's Will", which reads as follows:
    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 wills his corporate empire to his servants, and leaves each brother half of his American 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.

  • 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: After Luna's mother died as a result of trying to gaslight Luna into commiting suicide as part of some sort of insurance scam (Lord Seigfried's first major Pet the Dog moment being the panel where he beheads her with a longsword soon after finding out what she's up to), she left her nothing in the will.

    Western Animation 
  • Can't get any more spiteful than King Barlow in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Millions", who uses his last will and testament to play a cruel prank on the Joker (Which is safer than doing so alive, actually). He officially wills the Joker $250 million in cash, but only 10 million of it is real money- the rest is counterfeit. After Joker goes on a massive spending binge, he finds a Video Will outlying the problem; The Joker needs to pay inheritance tax for the official amount, and if he reveals the ruse, he'll never be able to live it down.
    Barlow: See, I always hated your guts, and this was the perfect payback. By now you're probably out of real money, the IRS is after you, and you can't admit I fooled you, or you'll be the laughingstock of the underworld. The joke's on you, sucker! I got the last laugh after all! (Starts laughing, wheezing, but still smiling when Joker shoots the TV in a Tranquil Fury)
  • 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 "Cartmanland", 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!

    Real Life 
  • On year into his marriage, King George IV made a will leaving his estate to his former common-law wife Maria Fitzherbert, while setting aside a single shilling for his hated legal wife Princess Caroline. The will never came into effect; the King eventually denounced Maria while Caroline predeceased him.


Video Example(s):


King Barlowe's trick on Joker

The Clown Prince of Crime gets fooled.

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Main / SpitefulWill

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