The Baudelaire Fortune is a large, unspecified amount of money that was left behind by the Baudelaire parents to the Baudelaire children.
Role in the series
Due to their parents' very specific will, the Baudelaire children are not allowed to use a single cent until at least one of the orphans turns 18 years old; in this case, Violet Baudelaire would allow to use it the soonest as she is 14 years old in the beginning of the series. Because of the will, Arthur Poe at Mulctuary Money Management refuses to allow to orphans to access it. The fortune is also not to be used for any of the Baudelaire guardians.
The fortune is Count Olaf's main incentive for tormenting the Baudelaires in the first place, but it has been debated that the primary reason for his involvement in the Baudelaires' lives could be something else, such as his relationship with the Baudelaire parents. He has made it clear that after obtaining the fortune, he will not hesitate to kill them. The fortune also becomes a bit of a joke, as Olaf makes it ridiculously obvious that he wants to fortune such as when Olaf says, "Did you bring the fortu-- err, children?"
It is ironic that the Baudelaire fortune was intended to better the children's lives, when it actually became a burden for them due to Count Olaf's pursuit of the orphans. If the Baudelaires were never to inherit the fortune, then Count Olaf may have left them alone and they would never have experienced a series of unfortunate events. The Baudelaires also occasionally live in borderline poverty, as they can't afford a basic bed in The Bad Beginning, and are at the mercy of the world in The Hostile Hospital and onwords, although it could be argued they were at the mercy of the world before then.
In The Penultimate Peril, it appears that Mrs. Bass (a teacher from Prufrock Preparatory School) robbed Mulctuary Money Management (rumor claims that she stole the Baudelaire Fortune). In Mrs. Bass' hotel room, Sunny Baudelaire sees a pile of large bulky bags with PROPERTY OF MULCTUARY MONEY MANAGEMENT stamped on them. The Austere Academy mentions Mrs. Bass was arrested for bank robbery.
By the end of the series, it's unclear if the Baudelaires ever inherited the fortune, similar to how it's also a mystery if the Baudelaires are even alive. In The End, Violet says, "None of us may ever see a penny of that money" meaning she has accepted this possibility.
If The Puzzling Puzzles is canon (however, there is some debate over whether it is or not), the fortune is said to be about 130 shoeboxes full of golf ball-sized diamonds. It is unclear if this simply refers to the value, or if it is literally diamonds.
In the first book, Klaus Baudelaire says that if he could use the fortune now instead of in years, he would buy a castle and live in it, with armed guards patrolling the outside to keep out Count Olaf and his troupe.
In The Miserable Mill, Violet mentions that if she obtained the fortune, she would like to build an inventing studio for herself, potentially over Lake Lachrymose where Aunt Josephine's house used to be so she could be remembered. Klaus mentions he would build a public library, and buy back Uncle Monty's reptile collection, and take care of all the reptiles. Sunny mentions she would be a dentist.
Olaf mentions in The End the first thing he'd buy is a shiny new car named after himself.
- It is unclear where the fortune came from. A theory posits that Beatrice, Bertrand, and Lemony Snicket killed Count Olaf's Count Olaf's mother and father, possibly in order to receive a fortune. It would explain why Olaf is a financially poor "Count", a title usually applied to royal/rich people. It would also explain much of Olaf's motives.
- In the TV series, Beatrice accidentally murdered Olaf's father, although this may not be the same in the book canon.