Why changes to organ donation law could be reason to write a will – Julie McMahon

New legislation introduced last week presumes anyone who dies to be an organ donor with people who don’t want to be required to opt out beforehard, writes Julie McMahon.

It’s a subject that not many of us give a great deal of thought to, particularly in our younger years, but the question of what happens to our possessions and wealth when we die is an important one.

Quite simply, everything from our home to savings and investments form part of our estate and young or old, a homeowner, parent or grandparent, you are likely to have accumulated at least some assets, even if it is a small amount of savings.

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Ideally, we’d want to have some control over what happens to what we own when we are no longer here, and making a will is undoubtedly an effective way to do so. It’s never pleasant think about our mortality, but dying without one can result in a stressful process for loved ones, and create a level of complexity which you had not intended.

New legislation recently passed has brought this into sharp focus, going well beyond the question of whether you have assets to be shared upon your death.

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Arranging a will has traditionally been more of a focus for those getting older. Many younger people can almost have a feeling of invincibility, an optimism borne of being, well, young.

But whatever age you are, no one is invincible, and it’s not just assets that need to be considered when we die, but our own bodies.

There has certainly been a societal move towards encouraging more organ donation and, of course, some donations are made whilst individuals are still living, and consent has been provided.

However, in many cases donations can only be made when someone has died and it has been a subject of some debate as to what happens to someone’s body once they have passed. It can be left to family members and other loved ones to make a difficult decision on donation, during what is likely to be a distressing and emotional period. With no will in place, your wishes may not be carried out as you’d like.

Until recently, an individual was required to make clear their intention to donate their organs on passing, and this would be done by narrating this in their will and also by registering their intention on the organ donor website.

The new legislation, introduced last week, has turned the position on its head. It now presumes an individual to be an organ donor, having to opt out of the system if they do not wish to be one after their death.

Under the plans in the Human Tissues (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill, families will still be consulted at the time of death and will have a final say.

However, it is crucial that individuals seek advice from an appropriate professional and indeed their own families, in order to clarify and record exactly what they wish to happen on their death.

Many now also wish their remains to be made available for medical research and again this can be made clear in their will, with an additional process involved.

Whilst we cannot avoid this most sensitive of subjects, we can make sure our wishes are heard.

Distributing what wealth we have, to those we’d like it to go to, is incredibly important, and can be life-changing to the beneficiaries.

But there is nothing closer to us or more personal than our bodies and it is your right to decide what happens to it.

Only you will know what you want. Make sure others do as well.

Julie McMahon is an associate at Aberdein Considine