About 19 months ago, I threw my hands in the air after a series of New England snow storms and decided to spend an undetermined amount of time in southern Europe. Winter passed, as did the following year, and I am still loving my new life in a mild climate, historical surroundings and the best cuisine that my teeth have ever sunk into. Needless to say, I have yet to miss the US and have not stepped a toe on my home country since leaving, but I have managed to place my life there in hibernation. How did I do it? Which steps did I take to care for my personal affairs back home?

Before making my mind up to leave, moving abroad seemed like a daunting task, but it doesn't need to be overwhelming. The trick is to plan in advance and handle each obstacle piece by piece, rather than trying to sort everything at once. Here are a few tips to help you get started if you're considering a move to your own home away from home.

1. Visit/contact your financial institution before you leave/after leaving.

Anytime you plan to travel abroad (even if only for a week), you should inform your bank first. One reason is to prevent your card from being declined, due to any high overseas transactions potentially triggering an identity theft warning. This will also help if later you choose to stay abroad. Some bank accounts can be closed through a written and signed request (by every individual on the account). Either email or call your bank to find out their preferred method.

2. Leave your home in the hands of someone you trust and place valuables in storage.

Do you own a home? Your house can quickly become a liability if problems happen and no one is around to catch them. This is why you should entrust a close friend or relative with the keys so they can check in periodically (especially during bad weather). Second, place valuables in a secure storage facility. Who knows how much time will pass with your home left unattended? Unfortunately, theft is a hazard to safeguard yourself against. This also leaves you free for the possibility of renting. While I know that this may not be an option for everyone, renting is a good one to consider if you plan on being away for a few years or more (especially if you're still paying a mortgage). Find a real estate agent that also assists in rentals, since they may come in handy if you later decide to sell your home.

3. Create an online account for paying taxes.

Tax is a little word that can cause a lot of panic. Online filing companies, however, have come a long way to become trustworthy, easily accessible and user-friendly. And do you plan on working abroad (which you may consider after a significant amount of time away)? Research the rules for filing, since many (if not most) times you will need to file in both countries. Don't allow your fear of the T-word prevent you from pursuing your dreams of living abroad.

4. Don't leave your car without supervision.

Your home isn't the only thing that should be watched. A general rule of thumb when traveling abroad is to leave all personal property in the care of someone you trust. First, knowing that these expensive items are under a watchful eye will give you peace of mind. Second, certain items will get old quickly when not used. The car is a good example, and someone should turn the engine on every few weeks to keep the battery from dying.

It's easy enough to arrange your car to be sold without you coming back to sign the paperwork, if you follow some simple rules.
There are other things you can do, such as invoking a Power of Attorney, so others can handle situations on your behalf, but it's always better to discuss these options with a lawyer first. Make sure to sign with someone you trust, review each document very carefully and never sign if you're not 100% certain about what's in print.

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