From Shakespeare’s King Lear to Flaubert’s Frédéric Moreau, who lives off of his uncle’s money, and Edward St Aubyn’s novels about the troubled heir Patrick Melrose, literature has always been occupied with inheritance and inherited wealth. The insights provided by this literary legacy are more important than ever. Once considered a relic from the aristocratic past superseded by liberal meritocracy, inherited wealth is now recognized as a source of rising social inequality. It therefore poses an important challenge for the present – and for the future. To meet this challenge, inheritance must be understood in all its historical and cultural complexity. For inheritance is more than a means of transferring wealth between generations.