If you die without a will, all property owned solely by you will be divided according to the laws in Maryland. The division will include the spouse, but it also might include the decedent's children and parents. Maryland Cooperative Extension has a fact sheet, Writing Wills in Maryland, that explains the laws.
The second tool that will communicate to your children that you are doing everything you can to protect you and them is a durable power of attorney. If something happens to you and you are unable to make decisions, the person named as your power of attorney can sign taxes, sell property and execute financial decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a durable power of attorney, your children might need to have the court appoint someone to manage your affairs. This can be a lengthy and costly process.
Your third tool is the "advance directive." A Maryland law called the Health Care Decisions Act says that you can do health care planning through advance directives. The advance directive has two forms ? the living will and the advance directive, part A and B. Part A allows you to name a health care agent. This will give the person you choose the power to make health-care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make these decisions. This person can act in your behalf even if you are not terminally ill. Part B allows you to provide health care instructions in the event you are not capable of making an informed decision regarding your health care.
A living will clearly states that if you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state, you direct your health care providers to follow instructions you have set forth. This is a very difficult decision for family members to have to make if you are unable to communicate with them and have not left a living will.
Be certain to talk with the person or persons you would like to name to act in your behalf with a power of attorney.
When all of these documents are completed, let your children know. You don't have to give them the details of your will, but let them know who is named to act with your power of attorney and where all of your important documents are stored. You will be giving your children a gift of love and responsibility.
For Maryland advanced directives, go to www.oag.state.md.us/HealthPol/index.htm. To find the Writing Wills in Maryland fact sheet, go to www.agnr.umd.edu/MCE/publications and click on family life and community. Copies also can be obtained by calling Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County at 301-791-1504.