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How do I make an 'anatomical gift' of my body in Florida?

This blog has discussed various estate planning topics, including those related to incapacity and the prolonging of life, as well as the distribution of assets to beneficiaries after one's death. What about the status of one's mortal remains? The advances in medical science over the last half-century have made the use of organs and other bodily tissue, for transplanting and other life-saving procedures, much more common and effective. Further, having actual human bodies to use in research has contributed greatly to these important advances. As a result, more and more people are considering making an "anatomical gift" of part or all of their bodies after they die. So, how can a person make it known that they wishe to do so and be reasonably sure such wishes will be carried out?

Florida Statute 765.514 governs the way Florida residents may give legal effect to their wish to help others even after they pass on. The state attempts to make such gifts as easy as possible by allowing people to sign up for donation through organ or tissue donor cards, on-line registration with a donor registry, or indicating such intent on their Florida Driver's Licenses. However, a gift may also be made, and likely with more specificity, in a properly executed will, or in a non-will document executed similarly to a will.

If a person makes such a gift is in their will, it can be acted on before the will goes through probate, and it will not be invalidated by problems with the will as long as it was acted on in good faith. Florida law also provides that a person's legal healthcare proxy may also decide to make such a gift. It also possible to designate a specific recipient of one's anatomical gift.

Many of us are concerned about the legacy we leave when we no longer inhabit this world, whether it be by providing for our families, giving to charity, or creating a trust to help others. One way to make a lasting impression on a person's life is by allowing the use of one's earthly remains to save or enhance another's quality of life. Anyone who has questions about how to go about this, or any other estate planning issue, may want to contact a Florida estate planning lawyer.

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