Your inheritance, well, yes and…

In California legally an inheritance is the separate property of the person who receives it.   However, whether you get to keep it depends on what you did with it.

If you kept your inheritance money in your name and in an account by itself, it is yours.   What if you used it for family expenses like paying bills or going on vacation? Then it’s gone.

What if you used it to buy something you still have?   Then if you can document the source of the money and how it was used, you will either get the asset (ex: a car you paid off entirely) or get reimbursement (without interest or appreciation) for your contribution to say a down payment on a house.

If you mixed your inheritance with other funds, for example, deposited into an account with income, then it’s trickier but you may still get some or all of what’s left.   You have the burden to show all the necessary documents (it’s called tracing).

And remember, in mediation or the Collaborative Process you can agree to something other than the law would provide and not have to do all the work you would have to do for court.

Be sure to consult an attorney if you had an inheritance, because this is a complex area of law.

Amy Rodney is an attorney and mediator in Sonoma County.  More information in her bio on the “Find A Professional” page.