Preparing to Leave on a big trip

A checklist by Cynthia Milton, UK

Checklist for Over-40s

By which I mean anyone of middle-age with no close family and with 'life-baggage'. Most of it's obvious, but I had to work it all out for myself.

1. Next-of-kin and 'second-line' friends. If you don't have a next-of-kin, negotiate with a friend, who should also have your will (or a copy and a note of the location of the original). They should also have copies of everything else, like house/travel/vehicle insurance, travel papers and so on. The 'second-line' friends should ideally be local (so they can keep an eye on the house and the letting agent - see below). Redirect your mail to them so they can open it and deal with anything that needs attention. Also see below about bank accounts. They should also have copies (or originals where appropriate) of all documents.

2. Renting house. Choose a reputable estate agent (obviously) and maybe lie about how long you'll be away (longer lets can be easier). Consider renting unfurnished (minimises hassle in getting your sofa certified non-man-eating); costs more for putting everything in storage but means your stuff won't be trashed. The cost is not as bad as you might think - my average 3-bed semi and garage contents cost £35 a month. My agents were happy to have my 'second-line' friends as contacts. You'll also have to do all the form-filling for the building society and house insurance company.

3. Renew credit cards. Some are bound to expire while you're away, so renew any which may before you go. That way you can also get new PINs and change them to all be the same (sounds insecure, I know, but how many different ones can you remember?). And make sure you have Credit Card Sentinel (comes with some bank accounts, like Lloyds TSB Platinum) or something similar so if you lose a card or are robbed you only need one phone call.

4. TV licence refund. They'll refund the unused bit (minimum 3 months) and refund the up-front payments you've made by direct debit for next year's licence.

5. Tax office. If you think you won't be around next year to do this year's return, tell them. They're pretty helpful about this sort of thing.

6. NICs. You can arrange a standing order, or they can invoice you when you return if you want to pay a lump sum.

7. Guns. If you have a shotgun or firearm, best thing is to lodge it with a licensed armourer (any gunsmith, really). My shotgun cost me £15 a month. If your shotgun certificate/firearms licence expires whiule you're away the police will allow an early renewal.

8. Pets. I was lucky - my BMW dealer took in my cat (and spoilt it rotten).

9. Vehicles. Either sell or lodge with friends if you can. Put said friend on insurance so they can renew at the appropriate time. Up to you whether you SORN or not, but vehicles are better off being ridden/driven from time to time.

10. Share dividends. If you're expecting any, it's easy to get them paid straight into a bank account via the share registrars' websites (the Lloyds Bank Shareview site is particularly good). Any cheques which slip through can be paid in by your 'second-line' friends.

11. Bank account. I opened a No.2 account and added my next-of-kin friend and the 'second-line' friends as signatories. They could then administer stuff and make any necessary payments. I could transfer money into the account on the web when necessary.

12. Carnet. If you have a reasonable credit rating you can get a bank indemnity instead of paying the outrageous insurance premium. Bit of a struggle, but once you've trained your bank manager it's OK.

13. Teeth. Get your dentist to do a thorough check and replace fillings/crowns and do extractions if necessary. Painful (physically and financially) but can save enormous hassle later.

14. Phones. If renting out your house, keep your phone number and have the voicemail message say something like 'not here, don't leave a message, text my mobile (number) or email (address), if really, really urgent phone (second-line friends/next of kin)'.

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