Bequeath your stories using Web-based ‘emotional wills’

2009-10-22 00:00

If you could tell your great-grandchildren all about your life, about who you were, what you valued, mistakes you made and lessons learnt, how would you go about it?

Ever since ancient times, elders have passed wisdom on to future generations through oral traditions. Through storytelling, ­cultures were preserved, moral values instilled and survival tips were handed down. In modern ­nuclear families, we seem to have lost the art of passing on our ­stories and so often the elderly are forgotten.

We don’t all expect to be immortalised in stone, like Shelley’s ­narcissistic Ozymandius who left little but, “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” and “a shatter’d ­visage” in the desert. But most people would at least like to think that two generations down the line, a family member will remember their name and what they ­valued. Andrew McDonald, MD of McDonald Consulting, sheds some light on a survey conducted in the United Kingdom. “As many as 57% of people don’t even know the names of their great-grandparents and another 14% on top of that ­only know one name.”

An interesting solution comes in the form of an Emotional Will ™, a web-based product developed by McDonald, in consultation with a variety of experts. “We’re trying to create an addendum to the last will and testament by adding a person’s life experiences,” says McDonald. Basically, one owns a private website that can be linked to other family Emotional Will websites on your request. The website has a template with hundreds of prompts that will help you to tell your life story, share your adventures, and relate what you desire for your children and future generations. “We worked with psychologists, top executives in business and people who are involved with emotional development work,” says McDonald. “We worked out the questions that need to be there as discussion points to help stimulate what ­people need to say; so that what is written is meaningful.”

It is also a practical tool. Executors can spend months trying to find pension plans or insurance policies when a loved one dies and McDonald says that often people have unclaimed money sitting with insurance companies. Built into the Emotional Will ™ is a template that includes pension policy numbers, bank account details, insurance policy numbers, how you want to be buried and private personal wishes — all kept on a private, encrypted website. One is given a pin number which you would give to a particular individual of your choice — he or she will ­receive a book of your life which will contain all that information. All of this is backed up by a call centre.

You pay a monthly hosting fee, while the software for an Emotional Will ™ and that of six other family members, is free. This is the do-it-yourself option, which is straightforward. McDonald is also currently offering to send consultants around to interview elderly people, who are perhaps not techno-savvy. This information will then be captured into an Emotional Will ™ for a consultation fee.

According to McDonald, this product is endorsed by the Society of Will Writers, Sentinel International Trust Company and many other attorneys worldwide. It started out in South Africa and has rapidly spread to the UK, United States, Middle East and many ­other countries. It could be the next big thing and may enable the lives of our grandparents, parents and ourselves, to be remembered in a deeply personal way.


• Contact Andrew McDonald at or phone 073 744 7935 and visit these websites for more information:



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