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Organ Donation Questions

By: Cynthia Hutchins and Kelly Hutchins

Organ donation is a very personal decision—there is no right or wrong decision—only the decision that is right for you. According to organ donation statistics on, one-third of people who support organ donation do not have that choice documented. If you do not have your choice properly documented, it will impact your ability to make a donation upon your death.

Is There an Age Limit for Organ Donation?

There is no age limit on organ or tissue donation. In fact, about one-third of lifesaving organs come from people over the age of 50. One of the oldest organ donors was a 92-year-old man whose donated liver saved the life of a 69-year-old woman. Most major lifesaving organs come from living donors and trauma victims, which can happen at any age. The health of a donor and the manner of death is more important than age when it comes to donating vital organs.


shutterstock_1487900288Organizing important paperwork is the first step towards getting your affairs in order.  I pride myself on being organized, and I want to pass on some of the wisdom I have acquired during my many years of practicing law.  It may seem like a daunting task to get your affairs in order and papers organized, but if you follow these simple steps you will find the process can be easy and pain-free.  Here are ten steps you may consider for organizing your important papers and make sure everything goes smoothly if something happens to you:

1—Find all of your original estate planning documents (Wills, Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Trusts, Life Insurance Policies) and make a listing of those documents.  On the list make a note of where you keep your originals and where you keep your copies.

2—Make a list of your assets (real estate, investments, bank accounts, investment accounts, long-term care insurance, retirement plans, life insurance, and any high-value personal property, jewelry, artwork, family heirlooms, and automobiles).


image002            All our lives have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  For many of us, it has put us in touch with our own mortality, and we realize how a serious illness or death can affect our loved ones, even beyond the tremendous emotional toll.  Who do we want to make our healthcare decisions if we are incapacitated?  What are our wishes for end of life care?  How do we want our estates distributed after our deaths?

Making sure our documents and estate plans are in order may be one way to lessen the stress of this difficult time.   Practicing law during this pandemic has brought its own challenges.  Fortunately, modern technology allows us to continue to work with clients in writing, over the phone, and by video conference calls.  Certainly, such communication methods do not replace the comfortable setting of in-person meetings.  However, creative solutions to the practice of law make working remotely more successful.

One way in which the State of Illinois has helped is that Governor Pritzker recently signed an Executive Order which allows documents to be finalized, witnessed, and notarized by recorded video conference sessions.  There are many specific and technical requirements to ensure that the documents are properly finalized, but at least we have a way to help people finalize their estate plans during this time.   While many things in life must wait, at least we can support our clients during this pandemic with these additional tools.


charitable trust IMAGEWith taxpayers owing such a high percentage of taxes on almost any type of long-term gain, in addition to other taxes –such as the Medicare surtax – those in the top tax brackets might consider establishing charitable remainder trusts for donations of highly-appreciated assets. A charitable trust is a trust established for some charitable purpose. Charitable trusts are limited in what they can do; they must fit into a certain category established by the law.

 Setting up a Charitable Trust

In order to establish a charitable trust, you must first create the trust and donate the property to the trust that will eventually pass to a charity that is approved by the IRS. The trustee will manage or invest the property to produce an income. A charitable trust can pay the person who established the trust a certain percentage of the income that was made from the trust over an agreed upon payment timeline.  After the person that established the trust passes away, the charity becomes the owner of the property.


portability IMAGEIn 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 into law. As part of this law, significant modifications were made to the rules governing federal estate taxes, gift taxes, and generation skipping transfer taxes. Additionally, the law also introduced the concept of "portability" of the federal estate tax exemption between married couples for the 2011 and 2012 tax years. Additionally, last year, President Obama signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act into law. Under the provisions of that law, portability of the estate tax exemption between married couples was made permanent.

 Defining Portability

Portability is a valuable addition to estate tax laws because it allows a surviving spouse to use any unused federal estate tax exemption of the predeceased spouse. Portability may allow some couples to pass significant wealth without complicated estate tax planning.

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