Estate Planning Law Report: June 2014
How Do You Make An Organ/Tissue Donation As Part Of Your Estate Plan?

Alert reader (and retired firm administrator without peer) Joan Epstein recently helped me get up to date on Donate Life AZ, also known as the Donor Network of Arizona. It’s apparently part of a larger organization called Donate Life that calls itself an organ procurement organization. It facilitates organ and tissue donation in Arizona and other states. Arizona law contains specific directions for how to make an organ and/or tissue donation. The legal term for a donation of organs or tissue under Arizona law is “anatomical gift,” and the document for making such a donation is called, descriptively enough, a document of anatomical gift. The process of documenting an anatomical gift is described in Arizona Revised Statutes sections 36-844 and 849, if you are interested.

NB Hannah

Nathan B. Hannah, attorney

I usually suggest that an anatomical gift be documented with an attachment to your living will. The document should specify what organs or tissue you want to donate and the purpose of the donation. “Any needed parts or organs” and “any legally authorized purpose” are acceptable designations.

Your anatomical gift document should also specify the recipient of the gift, or it can say that your representative can make that decision. If you have already registered with an organ procurement organization, like Donate Life AZ (the other one I have some familiarity with is the University of Arizona Willed Body Program), that fact should be indicated on your document.

On their web site at, Donate Life AZ has a registration form (under the “Register Now!” button on the home page) that contains all of the same information that must be contained in a document of anatomical gift. At the bottom of the registration form, before you click submit, there’s a statement that says this:

I agree that detailed information regarding my donation, from recovery through transplantation, has been made available to me through this registration. By submitting this registration I affirm that I am the applicant described on this application and that the information entered herein is true and correct to the best of my knowledge. This registration will serve as a registration of my document of gift as outlined in the Arizona Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. A document of gift not revoked by the donor before death is irreversible and does not require the consent of any other person. 

The statutes that I mentioned above are part of the Arizona Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. There is also a separate section in the Arzona Revised Statutes that authorizes the Arizona Department of Transportation to transfer executed documents of anatomical gifts to an organ procurement organization that maintains an anatomical gift registry, i.e., Donate Life AZ

The Donate Life AZ website that I mentioned above doesn’t give a lot of detail about the actual organ donation process. I’m a little squeamish about it myself (that could be a reason why I never considered going to medical school or pursuing any other medical-related career), but Donate Life AZ has a very informative document, that I’m sure they will send to you upon request, that describes the donation process with just the right amount of detail.

If you are considering making an anatomical gift, I’m sure that Donate Life AZ, the University of Arizona Willed Body Program, and other similar organizations and programs can provide more information. I think documenting the gift as part of your estate plan by making an attachment to your living will makes the most sense, but there are other ways to do it, including, apparently, simply filling out the registration form on the Donate Life AZ website.





Perusing one of my favorite sites,, led me to a news item about a case in which a landowner sued his neighbor for damages resulting from a condition on the neighbor’s land.

What was the condition on the neighbor’s land? It was the presence of alligators. Lots of them, apparently. Well, the land is in the southwestern corner of Mississippi, near the Mississippi River, so I imagine it’s pretty wet there. It’s probably ideal alligator habitat.

Who was the neighbor? Just so happens it was a large oil company. Why does that matter?

This reminds me of a case I wrote about back in 2008 where the condition on the neighbor’s property was the neighbor’s bizarre behavior. In that situation, however, the discussion was about whether or not a home seller was obligated to tell a prospective buyer about the neighbor’s bizarre behavior.

In the situation with the alligator-infested land in Mississippi, the landowner who sued his neighbor was apparently warned about alligators in the area by the broker who sold him the property. One more possibly relevant fact: alligators are a protected species under Mississippi law, so the neighbor couldn’t have reduced their numbers, anyway. Can you fence in alligators?


Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions.  He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,

Contact Attorney Hannah:  or  520/ 322-5000