How Do You Make An Organ Donation As Part Of Your Estate Plan?

I have written in the past about Donate Life Arizona, also known as the Donor Network of Arizona. It’s 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 36-849.

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.


Nathan Hannah, Attorney

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 Arizona or the University of Arizona Willed Body Program, that fact should be indicated on your document.

On their web site at, Donate Life Arizona 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 authorization of any other person.

That statement contains a number of important points, including (1) you acknowledge that details about the donation process have been made available to you (so that you are making an informed decision), (2) you affirm that the information you are providing on the registration form is accurate (obviously essential), (3) the online registration is legally the same as if you registered on paper (like many other things in this digital age), and (4) if you don’t revoke the document of anatomical gift while you are alive, it can’t be undone (in other words, it becomes irrevocable upon death, which seems rather obvious but is an important fact to be aware of when registering).

The statutes that I mentioned above are part of the Arizona Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. There is also a separate section in the Arizona 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 Arizona. This means that you can make an effective anatomical gift when you apply for an Arizona driver license (new or renewal).

The registration page on the Donate Life Arizona web site that I mentioned above provides some, but not a lot of, detail about the actual organ donation process. Another section of that web site, under the “About Donation” link on the main page, provides a lot more information.  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), so I haven’t scrutinized that information. They also have a very informative document (that is probably essentially a hard-copy version of the information on their web site), that I understand they will send to you upon request. That document 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 Arizona, 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 simply filling out the registration form at

The subject of organ donation doesn’t come up that often in my work, but it is definitely worth taking the time to consider. The information above is by no means comprehensive. If you have questions about the process, I suggest you consult the sources that I mentioned above.  If you want to add a document of anatomical gift to your estate plan, please ask me.



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

This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.