Donating Your Organs

While most people think of estate planning in terms of wills and trusts, you also can use this time to make other decisions as well, including whether or not you would like to be an organ donor. In fact, stipulating in your will that you would like to donate your organs is one way to protect your choice.

According to, there are nearly 100,000 people on the waiting list to receive a donated organ. By becoming an organ donor, you are not required to donate all of your available organs. Rather, you can decide which organs and tissues they would like to donate. Organ donors can donate kidneys, lungs, heart, heart valves, intestine, pancreas, skin, bone, corneas, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, the middle ear, blood and platelets.

Some people may be under the impression that simply checking off the organ donation box on their drivers' licenses means their organs will be donated if they die. However, this may not be enough to ensure your wishes are followed in the event of your death. In some states, if your spouse or parent disagrees with your decision to donate your organs, they can prevent it from happening. In order to protect your decision to donate, you should follow some simple steps:

  • First, register with your state's organ donation registry. Most states have a donation registry that allows donors to register their names in a state database, which can then be used to match donors with recipients. In states without registries, check to see if the state has an accepted procedure for organ donation.
  • Second, list your intention to be an organ donor on your state driver's license. When you renew your driver's license, make sure you check the appropriate box for organ donor. Some states use driver licenses to track organ donors.
  • Third, carry an organ donation card with you in your wallet or purse. The card allows you to list which organs and tissues you would like to donate and also provides a place for your signature and the signature of two witnesses. You can print out a card from
Fourth, include your wishes in your will. When you create or update your estate plan, make sure that your decision to donate organs is included in your will. You can include specific instructions on what you would like to donate and how you would like your donation used. Lastly, discuss your decision to be an organ donor with your family, friends and health care providers. Since time is of the essence to harvest organs and tissues for donation, it is important that your intent to donate is well-documented and widely-known. If your loved ones understand your wishes, they are more likely to respect them once it comes time for the organ donation to happen.

Donations from one person can save and improve up to 50 other people's lives. Donors can be of any age and even those with medical conditions may still be able to donate. The only people who cannot donate organs or tissues or those who are HIV-positive, actively have cancer or have systemic illnesses. Otherwise, physicians evaluate potential donors on a case-by-case basis to determine whether any of the organs or tissues they have consented to donate would be a good match for a person in need.

Preparing To Meet With Your Estate Planning Attorney

To read and print out a copy of the checklist, please follow the link below.

Preparing to Meet with Your Estate Planning Attorney

You can download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader here.

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