How to Share Your Advance Health Care Directive

Your advance health care directive, also known as a living will, tells medical professionals and your family what health care decisions you want to be made for you, should you be unable to speak for yourself. BCHIP offers a free Advance Care Planning Consultation to help you with the process of completing an advance directive or you can use our simple form with reflection guidelines to help you think through and address the most important questions that you will have to consider. Once your living will is completed, where should you keep it and who gets copies? 

BCHIP’s program can assist you in the distribution of your advance directive. Suggested recipients include:

  • Your physician(s)
  • Hospital(s) you would be taken to 
  • Your healthcare agents 
  • Family members  

Who gets your advance directive?
Your primary care physician and all other healthcare agents whose care you are under should have a copy of your advance care directive. The local hospitals where you would most likely be taken in case of an emergency should have a copy on file, as should your medical power of attorney and all named healthcare agents.

If you have a lawyer, he or she should also have a copy. 

Of course, a living will is a “living” document, which means it can be updated any time you change your mind, so you may want to keep a list of those to whom you have given a copy so that you can also give them an updated copy, if necessary. 

Where to keep your advance directive
Keep several copies for yourself in various places where someone might look for them.

  • Keep a copy in your medical file. Your medical file is a collection of information for your medical powers of attorney to easily access. It should include a list of names of your doctors, any medical conditions you have, recent medical procedures, a list of medications you take, and any other pertinent medical information. This file will be very helpful if you are unable to answer questions about your medical history. In this file, you should also keep a copy of your advance directive / living will.
  • If you have a safe at your house or a safety deposit box at a bank, put a copy in there.
  • Some people will also share an online link, such as Google Drive or a more secure online document storage service, which is shared with friends and family. The advantage of an online document–which you alone should have the authority to edit–is that if you update it, all your loved ones will have access to your most recent document.
  • We recommend you also keep a card in your wallet or your purse, which summarizes some of your core beliefs and tells the reader where your document can be found.

For more information or to schedule your FREE Advance Care Planning conversation with our trained facilitators, please contact Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership (BCHIP) at 267-291-7882, email, or via our website


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