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Who Would Actually Get The Yellowstone Ranch If The Duttons Die?

Contains major spoilers for Yellowstone

On the season 3 finale of Yellowstone, a coordinated, Godfather-style hit on the Dutton family left the lives of nearly every potential heir to the family's throne hanging in the balance. With John shot, Beth involved in a potentially deadly explosion, and Kayce stuck in the middle of a shootout, chances are at least one beloved character won't make it out of this nightmare scenario alive. But since this show has taught fans to expect the unexpected, it's impossible not to theorize about the possibility that the Dutton clan could be almost completely wiped out. And if the unthinkable did happen, who would actually get the Yellowstone ranch?

If John has a worst-case-scenario game plan in place, he hasn't shared it with the audience. Then again, even a man who has seen as much tragedy as the Dutton patriarch has would surely have a hard time imagining a reality where he, Beth, and Kayce all die on the same day. If such a reality comes to pass, that would leave only two Dutton family members standing: John's adopted son Jamie, and his beloved grandson Tate. Add in his surrogate son Rip as a wild card, and it seems there are three potential heirs to the Dutton throne — none of whom would have an easy time holding on to the land given the number of people out to take a piece of the ranch for themselves.

Jamie betrayed his father, but he still has the most legitimate claim to the Yellowstone ranch

Ever since he found out that he was adopted, Jamie's inferiority complex has been on a rampage. The perpetual black sheep of the family, Jamie is seeking a sense of belonging with his biological father Garrett Randall (fans have a theory that perhaps Garrett isn't Jamie's real dad). Unfortunately, Garrett is also the one encouraging him to take the ranch from his family by force.

Jamie's actions on the season 3 finale certainly suggest that he believes he has the best claim to the land if John is out of the way, and he's already usurped his sister Beth's power of attorney. As a lawyer, he knows how to work the legal angle if his siblings survive and their father doesn't, but the one thing standing between him and owning Yellowstone outright could end up being his father's will.

While John no doubt wants all of his children to have some piece of his legacy, he's known for quite some time that Jamie doesn't have the aptitude to run the ranch on his own. So even though he has the means to wage an epic legal battle, unless John's will explicitly states that his adopted son is his heir, Jamie is unlikely to inherit the ranch — but he is very likely to attempt to sell it off piece by piece anyway.

Tate is the future of Yellowstone, and his grandfather knows it

The bond between Tate and John is unbreakable, and ever since he was finally allowed to see his grandson, the Dutton patriarch has been preparing the boy to take over the ranch one day. Way back on season 1, he tells Tate that the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch will one day be his, which suggests that John plans to leave the land in his grandson's hands — most likely through Tate's father, Kayce. But if Kayce doesn't make it out that shootout alive, Jamie will surely try to usurp Tate's claim.

And since Tate isn't even a teenager yet, it won't be hard for Jamie to convince the court that he should be in control until his nephew comes of age. That would give him plenty of time to dismantle his father's legacy and ensure that Kayce's son never has a chance to run the ranch — assuming that he stays his current course of allying himself with his biological father, of course.

Rip is the wild card who could save Yellowstone from all the vultures circling

On the Yellowstone season 2 finale, John makes a grand gesture to his most loyal rancher, Rip, by acknowledging that he sees him as his son. He also gives the rancher his written word that the cabin that he lives in will always be his. Essentially, that means Rip already owns a tiny portion of the ranch, and John's gesture could hint at what's to come on Yellowstone season 4

John is all about rewarding loyalty, and no one has been more loyal to him than Rip. If the aging Dutton patriarch did plan for a scenario where none of his children could inherit the ranch, then Rip is his most likely failsafe. Not only is he well-versed in how the ranch works, he's also far more capable of standing up to land grabbers and the reserve than Tate is at the moment.

If it's ultimately revealed that Jamie organized the attack on his family in order to get his hands on the entirety of the ranch, it would be downright shocking if he didn't discover that Rip is the heir apparent to some, if not all, of John's land. For now, the fate of the Yellowstone ranch remains up in the air, but if all the Duttons die, don't be surprised if Rip becomes the new owner of miles and miles of the family's beautiful Montana land.