Most Americans entering their 30’s are concerned with raising a family, purchasing a home, and saving for retirement. Those things are often at the top of a person’s list of priorities, and they think they have covered all their bases when it comes to ensuring a safe and secure future for their families.

After all, taking care of the here and now is what is important. Writing a Will, making post-death decisions, and getting an Estate Plan in order is something for old people, right? Wrong.

While those more tangential items are in fact important, having a comprehensive Estate Plan in place early in a person’s life is essential. An Estate Plan encompasses Trusts, Wills, Powers of Attorney, and/or advanced health directives. Questions needing consideration as soon as possible, and not pushed away for consideration at an unknown date (that may never come), include writing down preferences regarding organ donation, autopsy, and burial preferences.

Autopsy, Burial, and Donation Directives

Though a large part of estate planning involves the post-death administration of estates, documenting your wishes early significantly decreases the chance for interfamilial litigation following a person’s death. Below, we review a number of key terms related to autopsy, burial directives and body and organ donation, which should be included in a professionally created comprehensive Estate Plan.


Autopsy

Autopsy – In the state of Arizona, unless a death is classified as “suspicious,” or a County or government office requires it to help investigate a cause of death, a person is not required to have an autopsy upon their death. As a result, a person can outline their consent or refusal to have an autopsy in their Estate Plan.

An Agent can also be appointed to decide on the deceased’s behalf, or take direction from the information included in their Healthcare Power of Attorney or advanced healthcare directive in making the final decision.


Burial Directives

Cremation versus Burial – The default manner for disposition of a body, in the state of Arizona, is burial. This means, if you wish to be cremated, explicitly stating this preference when making post-death arrangements in an Estate Plan is essential. Without it, there is a risk of the cremation being denied in favor of burial.

For example, the situation of a cremation-denial may arise if cremation was desired by a person, but not documented before their death. If the deceased person has children, and there is not a unanimous decision to approve the cremation among all the children, problems can arise.

Without a unanimous decision on the cremation by all the children, it cannot legally occur. In such a case, costly legal battles among the children may commence, which could have been avoided altogether by including cremation directives in the Healthcare Power of Attorney in the first place.


Body and Organ Donation

Body Donation – If a person is interested in the donation of their body to science or the like, these arrangements can be made with a cadaver or anatomical donation company/institution during their lifetime. If these wishes are outlined in the Estate Plan and known by the family, loved ones can reach out to the appropriate channels to handle the logistics upon death.

Often, the donated remains will be cremated and returned to the family once they have fulfilled their purpose. In certain cases, remains will not be returned if they are part of long-term use for things such as forensic research, an exhibit, or educational purposes.

Anatomical Gifts – Arizona has no health requirements or age limits for being a donor. A desire to be a donor may be listed on a person’s driver license and outlined in their Estate Plan. Following death, a donor will be medically evaluated to determine what organ and tissue donations may occur.

Organ and Tissue Donation – Consent for becoming an organ and tissue donor can be further broken down into specific subsets to ensure your wishes regarding your donation are respected.

  • Organ donor without restrictions – Consenting to becoming an organ donor without restrictions means that any organ or any portion of it can be used. Donations may include organs, tissue, corneas, and skin.
  • Organ donor of specific organs – If a person only wishes for specific organs in their body to be donated, this language may be included in the Healthcare Power of Attorney.
  • Organ donation for specific purposes – Similarly to donating only specific organs, a person can also choose to only allow donation for specific purposes, such as therapeutic or transplant purposes. When outlined in the Healthcare Power of Attorney, the donations may only go to someone for the purpose of helping improve or cure their medical issues.
  • Organ donation for any purpose – When no restrictions are outlined, organ and tissue donations may be made for any purpose, including research, transplant, and education.

To learn more about the importance of including appropriate post-death arrangements in a comprehensive Estate Plan, please contact our legal team today to schedule your consultation.


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