This trope is related to Unexpected Inheritance, and very often, it coincides with it. A character receives an inheritance. But there are conditions to be met. If they are not met, then the character will lose the money/estate. This trope is often used as a way to guarantee that the character will fail to meet the conditions, so that the premise of the show is not changed too much. There are usually four conditions:
1. The character has to spend the night in the deceased’s house, which could be haunted. Someone will try to scare them off buy dressing up as a ghost.
2. The character is told that he or she will lose the money if they harm a certain person/type of person; such person, then starts antagonizing them because they can get away with it.
3. The character needs to get married within a certain time frame, either to specific person, or any person.
4. The character will lose either the entire inheritance or their share of the inheritance, if they die; this results in someone who stands to potentially gain all of the money, trying to kill them.
There are ways of messing around with the expectations of this trope. One way is to show that the character meets the condition, but ends up with no money because the estate was heavily in debt and was ceased by the government for taxes and such. Another subversion is that the inheritance is worthless due to the deceased’s assets having no value. Yet another way is that there is no inheritance, and the benefactor isn’t even dead; it was all a secret test of character.
- 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.
- 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.
- Uncle Beaureguard’s $1 million dollar fortune in Confederate dollars came from an episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!. As mentioned above, Confederate bank notes 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. Each beneficiary had to stay in Beauregard’s home to receive his/her share and the shares of those who failed to fulfill the condition went to those who didn’t fail. Scooby became the sole beneficiary.
- 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 “I’m throwing away a million dollars… but I’m HAPPY!” while trying to clobber Jerry with a broken board.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 he will lose a percentage of it each time he loses his temper. As the amount left inevitably dwindles due to his famous hair-trigger rage, he tries to kill off the executor of the will who’s been making all the deductions before it’s all gone (Namely, Bugs Bunny). In the end, Sam tried to pitch an image of calmness by having his servants hit him without him getting angry at them for this and Bugs had no courage to tell Sam he had already lost all the inheritance by then.
- 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.
- 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 a story where a cat inherited a fortune with the will stipulating that his parrot friend Louie would get the money if something happened to the cat. By the end of the cartoon, one of Louie’s plans actually seems to work, as the cat’s nine lives start leaving him. However, Loiue then brags about the inheritance he’s leaving behind, causing the lives to return and the cat to declare that if he can’t take the money with him, he’s not leaving.
- In Tex Avery‘s MGM short Wags to Riches, 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.
- A frequent plot in Looney Tunes shorts.
The book Marry Your Baby Daddy by Maryann Reid is about three sisters who receive an inheritance from their late grandmother. The catch is that they have a certain amount of time to marry the fathers of their children.