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Estate planning: making a donation of tissue or organs, P.1

Organ and tissue donation is, for many, a great way to give of oneself upon death. A recent article in the Jersey Journal focused on how to go about planning to fit an Organ Donor Pledge into one's estate plan.

There are several ways to go about this, whether by will, recording, driver's license or designating a representative.

The law governing organ donation in New Jersey is the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. Under that law, an individual wishing to donate organs or tissues on their death must clearly express their consent to do so, have a sound mind, and be at least 18 years old. Under the Act, organs and tissues may be gifted to any hospital, doctor, medical school, university, or storage facility for purposes of research, education, transplantation or therapy.

If one chooses to make an organ or tissue pledge by will, one will need two witnesses to attest that the donor was of sound mind, his/her signature is authentic, there was no coercion or undue influence, that the donor gifted tissue or organs voluntarily, and that there were no impediments to the donor's free decision in the matter.

To make the gift, the donor will insert a donor clause in his or her will. These can be specific or general. In a specific gift, the donor states who is to receive the donation and indicates the purpose for the gift. In a general gift, the donor does not name a specific person or organization. This allows the physician acquiring the gift to utilize the organ or tissue for whatever purpose they deem medically appropriate. Under New Jersey law, however, the acquiring physician does not participate in removal of the gift or tissue.

In our next post, we'll continue this discussion of how to make an organ or tissue gift part of one's estate plan.

Source: Jersey Journal, "Your Legal Corner: Organ donor pledge," Victoria Dalton, 27 Mar 2011.

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