Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wait for dead men’s shoes v.

to expect an inheritance, to hope to succeed to someone else’s job.

[UK]R. Fletcher ‘To my Honoured Friend’ Epigrams and Poems 256: And Tis a general shrift, that most men use, But yet tis tedious waiting dead mens shoes.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]A. Murphy Upholsterer I ii: I grant ye, Ma’am, you have very good pretensions; but then it’s waiting for dead Men’s Shoes.
in P. Fitzgerald Life and Times of John Wilkes (1888) I 244: As they have no other relation but Miss Wilkes, I therefore suppose they will leave everything to her, independent of me. Yet this is, after all, waiting for dead men’s shoes.
[Aus]Launceston Advertiser (Tas.) 21 Aug. 272/3: ‘Oh! I see: - a managed matter; - a candidate for dead men’s shoes, eh! Ah! you sly dog!’ .
[US]C.M. Kirkland Western Clearings 150: No prospect of an inheritance had prevented their mother from accommodating her ideas to her present condition. This ‘waiting for dead men’s shoes’ is proverbially enervating to the character.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 27 Sept. 4/4: In spite of their drinking, it was no joke waiting for the ‘dead men’s shoes’ of these Welsh squires.
People’s Advocate (Sydney) 15 May 12/1: [D]uring which period I was placed in the extremely unpleasant position of what is called ‘waiting for dead men’s shoes’.
[Aus]Wkly Times (Melbourne) 18 Dec. 11/2: Waiting for dead men’s shoes is, in most cases, a bootless affair.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Dead Men’s Shoes II 101: ‘Rather an ignoble position that,’ says Dick, – ‘waiting for dead men’s shoes.’.
Standard (Port Melbourne) 11 July 3/3: ‘Men, behind old employes, should receive their increments without waiting for dead men’s shoes, or for men being forced to retire’.
[UK]Pall Mall Gaz. 5 Aug. 2/1: ‘Queer way of waiting to step into dead men’s shoes,’ remarked Guy’s man.
[UK]Pall Mall Gazette 26 July 2/3: Waiting for dead men’s shoes is a tedious business, especially when the shoes in question are a pair of Turkish slippers [F&H].
[Scot]Eve. Teleg. 13 Feb. 1/4: [headline] Waiting on Dead men’s — Houses!
[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 27 May 5/2: There is a proverb about waiting for dead men’s shoes [...] If the other two parties are waiting for our shoes, they will have to wait a very long time.
[UK]Gloucs. Echo 25 Aug. 1/7: A 74 Years-Old woman said [...] she knew her neophew wanted her house, and told him, ’If you wait for dead men’s shoes you wait a long time’.