Before an international move, it is important to make sure all legal and other documents are in order. These may include: Power of Attorney, wills, medical directive (health care proxy), children's school records, a spouse/partners employment records, academic credentials, vehicle and home titles, loan papers, medical/dental records, and financial records.

Preparing legal documents before departing for an overseas assignment is advisable. A couple of resources that may be helpful are:

Some items to consider include:

  • Draw up a power of attorney to leave with a lawyer, relative, or friend so that you have someone who can act legally on your behalf while you are abroad.
  • Update the will of each adult member of your family. Place the originals in a safe place and keep a copy in your possession. Draw up a "letter of instruction" to be followed in the event of death, including preferred funeral arrangements and contact information for people to be notified. The "letter of instruction" is not a legal document and doesn't substitute for a will. A Personal Affairs Record Book can help you gather the information that might be needed by your executor or personal representative. Designate or update the beneficiaries on insurance policies, retirement accounts, final salary, and other holdings.
  • Look into creating a medical directive. This includes a health care power of attorney, which designates someone to make medical decisions for you, and a living will, which lists your treatment preferences in case of terminal illness or permanent unconciousness. State Department employees can get a free copy of "Five Wishes" for this purpose. Others may want check online resources such as, which offers forms for every state, or
  • Scan and save important papers, such as past tax returns. Store a copy in a safe place with someone in the U.S. You might also want to scan or photocopy scrapbooks and irreplaceable photos, leaving the originals and negatives with someone in the U.S.
  • Investigate renting a safe deposit box to store important records (NOT wills) and decide whether someone else should have access to it.

Listing of items to handcarry to post from the Family Liaison Office.

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