If your partner takes care of certain aspects of your life together (as most do), be grateful. Dance a jig. Enjoy it. But know the day may come when you have to learn how to do all kinds of things of little or no interest to you, just in order to keep going.
My husband Jay paid the bills, did all the home maintenance, gardening and snow removal, and dealt with garbage and recycling. He also bought the wine (and used to say he had shares in the LCBO.)
Now I’d paid bills before in my life, it’s not exactly rocket science. The challenge was in figuring out HOW Jay had paid them. Did he receive paper bills in the mail? Get email notifications? Pay by check, e-transfer or automatic withdrawal? Did he pay annually or monthly? As it turns out, there was no system, every bill was handled differently. Fortunately my children figured most of it out for me, when they were desperate for something to do immediately after he died.
Nonetheless it took a while to get everything sorted out (and I’m not even talking about closing accounts or getting insurance settlements and survivor’s benefits.) I was gobsmacked when I called Bell Canada to see if I could change the name on the account from his to mine. I’d been registered as secondary account holder for years, but no, they told me, it would be impossible to change the name. I’d have to open a new account. Seriously? Yes, seriously. So I left his name on the account and continued to receive paper bills addressed to him. Then I wanted to access the account online but I didn’t know his password. Again, this was an insurmountable obstacle, nothing they could do. Had no one with a Bell account ever died before? Honestly. In the end, by trial and error I figured out the password, but was very happy to end my relationship with Bell shortly thereafter.
Bell bills were not the only mail that continued to arrive for Jay. He donated to lots of charities and subscribed to various magazines and newsletters. Being uncertain of my finances (especially upon learning that the life insurance we’d dutifully paid for years on our line of credit covered only me, not Jay – which was definitely not the plan), I called all the charities to explain his passing and cancel his automatic donations. All were sympathetic and most obliged but still…
On a daily basis, 2-3 letters arrived for Jay. For the first year after his death, I scrupulously returned the mail, with the inscription “Recipient Deceased, Return to Sender”. Then, as the same companies continued to send letters, I added, “Please remove from mailing list”. The flood abated somewhat, but to this day most of the mail I receive is for Jay. It goes directly into the recycling bin.
The one that really kills me is the National Bank, where at some time in the distant past, Jay must have had a small investment. Despite all my “Return to Sender”s, every 3 or 6 months I get a statement from them indicating he has a balance of $0.00.
I now pay all the bills in quite a blasé fashion. I have a handyman to take care of home maintenance (very nice chap, though it took me awhile to get that together – and my world threatened to fall apart when a latch or faucet broke). I have mastered the art of getting the garbage and recycling to the curb, and I buy my own wine. I even learned how to run the snowblower – and the garden has not turned into a jungle (although it is a pale shadow of the glory it was when Jay lavished care on it).
Does this give me a warm glow of satisfaction? Well, in a way, it does. I don’t love doing any of those things, but I no longer feel helpless. It may have taken me two full years, but now I can manage. And that is something.