Matters of the heart: writing an emotional will

How do you want to be remembered? For your love of dogs? Your appreciation of a fine drop? Your bottomless fund of funny stories about the old days? Your bad jokes? A no-fail recipe or favourite dish?

While you can’t leave everyone you care about part of your personal fortune or material objects you can leave a legacy of a different kind by preparing an emotional will – and no lawyers are needed. Life is made up of the little things and compiling an emotional will is one way you can leave meaningful “thoughts, values and memories” to your family and friends.

An emotional will

A few years ago, inspired by the book Dying to Know: Bringing Death to Life, “a guide to death for everyone alive” by Andrew Anastasios (published by Hardie Grant), not-for-profit group The Groundswell Project created its annual Dying to Know day on the 8th of August. Through the medium of projects in the arts, the Groundswell Project’s stated “goal is to tackle the stigma and taboo of death and the impact this discomfort has on our community”. 

The Groundswell Project also created its end-of-life planning workshop 10 Things To Know Before You Go (held throughout the year but now also moving online) which introduced the concept of making an emotional will.

Here are some of their prompts to get you thinking about creative ways to leave a legacy from the heart:

  • Who are the people you want to leave messages for in your emotional will?
  • What is a message you’d like to leave for your partner/spouse/best friend/children?
  • Describe a time in your life that you showed great courage
  • Describe a time when you experienced joy
  • Do you have any regrets? How have these shaped your life?
  • What is your most memorable childhood experience?
  • Who were your mentors and how did they help shape you?
  • What were your parents like? How did this relationship shape you?
  • What was your first paid job?
  • What is your first memory?
  • What was school like for you?
  • Did you have a childhood sweetheart? Share a story about this.
  • Describe a time of great sorrow or sadness. What impact did this have on you?
  • What do you remember about your grandparents?
  • Where is your most favourite place? Describe it as vividly as you can.


With thanks to The Groundswell Project. Dying to Know Day is held every year on August 8th. Go to for more information.