Despite a growing interest in the history of women in colonial Spanish America, the Castilian legislation which defined female juridical status has received scant attention. Some scholars have treated legal questions as a corollary to the themes of feminine endeavor and wealth. The law itself, relegated to a secondary position, has remained a maze of confusing mandates to all but a few historians who have wrestled with its directives. An analysis of the legal foundation which was central to the roles that Hispanic American women assumed in the colonies is therefore in order. The purpose of this article is accordingly to clarify pertinent legal terms, concepts, and procedures that were operative throughout the Indies. Particular emphasis is given to the subject of females as donors and beneficiaries of marital endowments and parental estates. Since the abstract legal principles are difficult to understand, concrete examples are drawn from Hispanic families in Chile to illustrate the workings of the law. These eighteenth-century cases comprise a dowry receipt, an estate settlement, and a set of testamentary dispositions. The family papers underscore the fact that norms established in peninsular legislation and applied in Spanish America constituted an important link in the chain of continuity with the past that characterized colonial life even as that life underwent change in the Bourbon era.