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Who shall I leave all my money to?

By Allix Denham 

One concern among non-parents, apparently, is the lack of descendants to leave their money to after their deaths. This is not something that keeps me awake at night. Personally I find the thought rather liberating – what good can you do with your money instead? How creative can you get with your assets? Whose lives can you change, if only on a small scale, for the better?

Let’s face it, haven’t we all, at some point in our lives, longed for a surprise legacy from some long-distance relative or kindly former neighbour? Not having family obligations enables you to offer just that to the people who’ve mattered in your life.

What about the lovely carer or nurse, the cleaner whose smile lit up your morning, the neighbours who helped you out in a crisis? The old school friend who’s fallen on hard times, or that friend’s child who might well need a financial boost by the time of your demise?

Beyond family and friends, there are always charities to consider, and websites such as Remember A Charity, which facilitates legacies to around 140 international charities, are a great place to start.

They claim that while 35% of us talk about leaving something to charity in our wills, only 7% actually do so. Perhaps this has more to do with our failure in general to write wills at all – a 2014 report by The Law Society found that some 74% of people under 54 and 36% over 55 had not done so.

An alternative to charity is microfinancing. The non-profit organisation Kiva, for example, enables you to make loans of as little as $25 to individuals and groups around the world – people who are trying either to start up or grow a business, or simply to raise their standards of living.

These are loans, and they get paid back within a set period. Once your money’s in the system, you can’t take it out, so when it’s paid back you just loan it out to another recipient.

Kiva encourages you to name someone in your estate to continue lending on your behalf after your death – a rewarding project for the right person. If not, your account can be set to ‘autolend’, with your chosen criteria specified, and Kiva will organise your loans for you.

This all means that long after your death, your money could be helping people throughout the developing world, from hairdressers in Baghdad to sustainable agricultural projects in Kenya – and will continue to do so indefinitely.

I can’t think of a better legacy than that.

Allix Denham is a writer currently based in France. She and her partner have no children, but entertain the neighbour’s cat on a regular basis.

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