I'm not expecting my husband of 46 years to die soon, and sure, I could predecease him, but it bothers me not knowing how to do all the things he does. Actually, it terrifies me. I want to remain independent as long as possible!

Before he retired seven years ago, I paid all the bills. He took that over, and figures out taxes. He knows where to take the cars to be inspected or repaired. He does much of the yard work, can cut back crepe myrtle trees; I do the garden. He can get up on a ladder or roof to check hurricane damage. He paints, can install bathroom tile, a light fixture, fix a leaking pipe. I sewed a tent, down jacket, and nylon backpack for a baby, but am not skilled with tools, plumbing, or electricity. He can install a washer and dryer; I can do laundry (ha). I can pick up groceries, cook a healthy meal, and make kombucha. The list goes on.

What does a recently widowed woman have to know how to do to survive? I can find online articles about funeral, financial, and insurance, but there are things that I believe I could ask my husband to tell me I need to learn to do. It would give him a chance to brag about all he does, and he does a lot!

Some of the readers here have faced bereavement. What do you wish you had bothered to figure out how to do beforehand, instead of having it all crash down on you later?

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Also check out your local junior college. Many offer basic home repair classes. Balance the checkbook and pay bills together, that way you are aware of what is going on financially. Keeping a list/binder is a great idea, especially listing trusted service providers. For yardwork see if your local high school has a FFA program (future farmers of America) many of the students are working towards their state degrees and have started their own lawn/tree care service to earn it. The advisor of the program also has many leads and connections that may be helpful to you. Ask neighbors and friends about work they've had done to their homes and what they thought of the company. See a neighbor getting a new roof? Take a walk to see if the workers respect the property,do they maintain a fairly neat working area or are they flinging shingles everywhere? When they leave is the yard in good shape without damage? Was the homeowner happy with the service? Get more than one bid and get it in writing, remember if it's not in the contract you haven't any legal recourse regardless of what they say they'll do for you. Kee a file at home in a safe or fireproof box (copies) of important information such as insurance information, investments, life insurance policy, copy of wills and poas,keeping originals in a safe deposit box. Make sure you have the executor of your will/alternate poa on your safe deposit box so that in the event of an emergency or demise they can access the needed information, let them know where the key is. The executor of the estate is granted access only after presenting the death certificate and proof that they are actually the executor, at that time the only item that may be removed is the will with a bank employee as witness. The rest of the contents will then be catalogued by the bank and will be turned over to the probate court. You may also want to set up a trust including a land trust that helps avoid probate and ensures that your wishes are carried out. A land trust allows you as the owner to do anything you want with the property while living but transfers the property deed to your heirs without having to go thru courts.
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There is a YouTube DIY tutorial for *anything* you would ever care to learn how to do. Truly... *anything.* The Internet is amazing. :-)

But also, maybe take time to discuss now with husband who is still alive, and make a notebook of his answers.
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So this is a two way street. Your husband probably does not know how to do all the things you do either.

Start a binder with 12 dividers, label them with the months. In each month add one sheet of paper for each task. At the start of each month have a list of that month's tasks.

Oil Change
Pay bills

Oil Change:
General cost

List all the documents needed (perhaps have this in March)
Where to get the forms
Any local free services to having your taxes done

Diagram of the yard with trees labeled
Which ones need pruning?
Where are the tools
How are the tools maintained
Who to call?
List of pruning services

Pay Bills
from which account?
Where is the cheque book?

Then sections for weekly chores
Which grocery store?
Which brands do you buy average cost
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I have a little lightbulb joke to share with you:

Q: How many Sloane Rangers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to call the electrician, and one to make coffee.

I realise I now have to explain what a Sloane Ranger is: a Sloane Ranger is a young single lady who lives in a tightly defined area of London not far from Buckingham Palace and is more noted for her social standing than for her practical common sense.

You, however, are a smart lady, as evidenced by your thinking about all these things ahead of time, and it will not take two of you to call an electrician or indeed to know when it is necessary. May your husband live forever, but meanwhile talk to your friends and neighbours and compile a Little Black Book of reputable and reliable tradespersons.

As for Doing It Yourself, I can only suggest the things that have been taught me by key male family members, e.g.

Never to sign anything I didn't understand.
How to get a refund.
How to change a car wheel; and, just as important, to make sure that when mechanics fit a new tyre they do not overtighten the wheel nuts while they're at it (there is a correct torque which must not be exceeded - just stand over them and make sure they do it right).
How to fill the washer reservoir.
How to check the oil.
How to change a fuse.
What a rising main is, and where you'll find the stopcock.
How to unblock a sink using a plumber's mushroom, and not to do that if you have already tried chemicals.
How to use drain rods.
How to cure an airlock.

The thing is - most of these jobs don't require much IQ or muscle, they're pretty easy once you know how, and especially for ladies it's mainly a matter of confidence. Rather than ask your husband to tell you, ask him to show you and then to supervise while you do it, and then you won't be afraid if you ever need to do something for real.

It's also important to know one's limitations, though. For example - prancing about on damaged roof tops is not likely to be a good idea for a novice no matter how well you've understood the theory. I've never felt there's any shame in calling in the professionals.
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My mother died and my father now has cognitive decline.
I bought a small safe, I think its 12"x18"? (It holds hanging files.) I put all the important info in it. I made a list of everything and placed it on the front.
I knew NOTHING about his (my Daddys) finances or his payments or accounts now I control everything and I have it set up in-case something happens to me so that my daughter doesn't have that problem.
I asked questions... no question is stupid... only an unasked one is!
And if I don't know how to phrase the question then I tell the person... "I don't know what I needs for..." and if the person I am asking needs more info thenr that person will ask a question of me.
If I don't know something I just say... I don't know what this means explain it as to a first grader.
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Your lucky to haveva handy husband but not all are. So it comes to being able to do it yourself or hiring someone. I'm 69 and have told my husband that if he goes before me, I will sell the house and get a nice apartment. I do not want to be bothered with upkeep. Just want a nice two bedroom apartment instead of a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with stairs.

Make sure you know what bills are paid and any investments you have. Insurance policies, benefits of the former employer. Wills should be updated. POAs in place.
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My dad taught me plumbing and I hated it, but man it sure has came in handy. I just wish he would have taught me how to install a hot water heater.

Ccheno good for you for being proactive. I agree with others here to start making a list of what you want to learn and know and don't forget to have hubby show you where your main water shut off and where your main gas line shut off line is.
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ccheno, be it divorce or a spouse passing on, one needs to start co-mingling the chores to make it easier if for some reason they are now on their own.

When I was a child, my Dad taught me how to fix things, taught me the names of each tool and how to use them. He even taught my ex-hubby to a point where hubby gained a lot of confidence when it came to remodeling and life in general. So when we divorced, I felt well knowledge on the workings of the world :) Of course my Mom was old-school, thinking a woman cannot live alone without a husband. Oh, yes we can !!

So, have hubby start showing you how to fix things. Makes sure he hands you the items, and not just him doing the fixing and you watching. You learn quicker by being hands-on. So vise-versa, thus you show him how to do laundry, keep it simple, one type of wash, one type of dry. My Mom use to use dozens of steps just to do one load of laundry... no wonder it took her all day.

My sig other does his own laundry and has for years. He knows how to grocery shop, and is pretty good with the vacuum [throw rugs still a challenge]. My biggest regret was not teaching him how to open the tool box and learn about each tool. He seems uninterested. He rather be reading the stock reports.

Make a list of tradespeople that you like calling to do repair work. Believe me, as we age, that list gets longer and longer. Once one no longer steps on a ladder due to safety concerns, you need someone who can. I stopped mowing my yard years ago, have a person I pay to mow. Also, I have a person who does the spring and fall yard clean-up.

Found a plumbing company I like who has seasoned plumber who has seen it all. Also, I have on my list two handymen for those odd jobs. Also a really super car repair shop that is in easy reach.

I also use a CPA at tax time, one less hassle especially with tax reform.

And most important, have girl-friends you can call and meet up with for an afternoon out.
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Well you are ahead of me...I could not sew a tent or a jacket and a backpack for a baby.
I wouldn't make kombucha! (don't like the taste)

So ask him to teach you some of the things that you want to learn.
Go to the local park district and take a class on repairs.
Home Depot has DIY classes on all sorts of stuff and if you plan on a tile project they will teach you.

I think twice about climbing a ladder to change a light bulb I certainly will not climb one to clean a gutter or patch the roof.

We all have our limits, we all have things we are good at and things we are not so good at and hopefully we have the wisdom to know the difference. The best thing to know is what you can and can not do and the phone number of who you can call when you need to hire someone. At some point even your husband might be better not climbing the ladder, might be better taking the care in for repairs.
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Also, for things like home maintence and auto care, make sure you have a list of names and numbers of places you use ( hubs can do this for you), so you know who to call if you need help. My hubs used to travel a lot, and it was great to be able to call someone trusted if I needed them
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Report are a very smart woman to be asking these questions now.....good for you!!! I’m positive you will receive many good answers on this forum.....
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What foresight, ccheno! Too many people ignore this issue until it's too late. This is a great opportunity for both of you to go through all important documents, including wills, trusts, living wills, POAs (health and financial), and financial papers.

For starters, make sure you (and he) have one list of financial institutions and all account numbers (or paper statements), passwords for any online accounts including banks, insurance, et al, written down (and in a very safe place).

Make sure you both know where all the financial and personal records are kept, such as in a safe or storage unit (and where the key is). How is your house titled? Make sure your name is on the deed (or in a living trust that you can control). How is your vehicle(s) titled? Make sure your name is on it too.

Insurance, do you know where all the insurance policies are including medical including supplemental, homeowners, auto, medical-flight, etc.

Get updated statements from Social Security, pensions, and any government institutions that can help either of you with any income. Have him show you how he does taxes or at least where all the papers are kept. This can help you do the taxes yourself or which papers to take to a professional.

Have a talk about funeral, cremation, burial, and final wishes when one of you passes.

Perhaps consider downsizing and moving into a smaller place. Maintenance should be less and you could either learn to do it yourself or hire someone to do things for you.

Good for you for asking. I've seen too many instances where one spouse doesn't (or is refused) know anything about this very important phase at a time that's the worst.
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Ok,so,make a list. What do I need to know how to do. That helps you conceptualize your task list. Focus. We have or will be in your shoes.
You are amongst caring folk here. And we all want you to have a soft landing.
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