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    Care at the End of Life - Important Decisions

    Organ donation continued...

    If you choose to donate, your organs may be distributed to one or more people, based on blood and tissue type, the severity of the recipient's medical condition, how long the recipient has been waiting, and geographical location.

    If you are interested in donating, you can indicate this on an organ donor card, a witnessed document that states your desire to donate your organs. On this card, you can specify which organs you wish to donate, or you can choose to donate any organ that is needed at the time of your death. Many states allow people to designate on their driver's licenses their wishes regarding organ donation.

    People under the age of 18 must have a parent's or guardian's consent to donate organs.

    Even if you complete a donor card or indicate your wishes on your driver's license, it is important to discuss your decision with your family. After your death, your family may be asked to give consent prior to donating your organs. For this reason, it is important to involve your family.

    Organ donation will not disfigure your body, nor will it interfere with your funeral, including plans for an open casket funeral. You and your family will not be responsible for the costs associated with organ donation. Those costs are paid by the person who receives the organ.

    Estate planning

    As you make end-of-life decisions, an attorney can advise you on how best to organize your estate so your family can handle your affairs after your death. Also, a financial planner or social worker may be available in your community or through a local hospital or hospice program. If your finances are limited, some attorneys and accountants offer services at a reduced rate or at no cost (pro bono).

    Estate planning may include:

    • Writing a will. If you already have a will, it may need to be updated. If you do not make your wishes known in a will, your state law may dictate what happens to your property when you die. Typically, property is distributed to a spouse, to children, or if there is no spouse or children, to other relatives. If no relatives can be found, your property may be taken by the state. Consider appointing a person to oversee your property after your death. This person is called an executor. After you write your will, keep it in a safe place, and let your executor and close family members know where it can be found.
    • Appointing someone to make financial decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so.
    • Choosing one or more people to care for your minor children (guardianship). A guardianship is a legal arrangement in which an adult has the court-ordered authority and responsibility to care for a child under the age of 18 or for an incapacitated adult.
    • Ensuring your records are in a safe, accessible place. Documentation of a life insurance policy, pension, retirement account, or annuity should be stored in a safe place, along with bank account information, deeds to real estate, or investment information. Close family members, the executor of your estate, and your attorney should know where this information is kept.
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