What happens to someone’s body after their death can have profound implications for their family members. Burials are often expensive, but they at least provide a location for those struggling with their grief to visit and remember someone. Cremation can also give people a lasting sense of connection with the deceased either because of where they spread someone’s cremains or because they choose to retain a portion of them.
Some people plan for an alternate arrangement with their body or at least part of it. People can make anatomical gifts by leaving their bodies for medical training or research. They can also allow medical professionals to harvest tissue and organs for the treatment of others in need.
Unfortunately, family members may not know or abide by someone’s wishes to leave an anatomical gift without careful planning.
Family members may struggle to make a decision on their own
People may worry that leaving an anatomical gift may seem crass or like they didn’t truly care for their loved one. Sometimes, family members argue with one another because they have differing ideas of what the deceased individual would prefer in regard to their body.
Someone planning their estate can help eliminate family conflicts over their wishes by leaving clear instructions. An advance directive can address the care they receive as they age and also what happens to their body after they die. In California, testators also have the option of directly signing up for a state network for tissue and organ donation.
It is often best for testators to both create written records discussing their desire to leave an anatomical gift and to have discussions with family members about those preferences ahead of time. Adding advance medical directives and other paperwork to an estate plan will give someone more direct control over their future both before and after death.