Finances of Stepparenting: 6 Things Every Family Should Know

1. Setting Goals
Sit down with your spouse-to-be and envision your future together. Write down (separately) your family, personal, career and financial goals for the next two years, the next five years and the long term, and compare notes.

Hold family meetings to get older children involved and update your progress. For more tips, see Goal Setting -- Family Style.

2. The House
Do you live in his house or yours? Sometimes the answer is neither. Starting over with a new house that meets the needs of your new family may be the best solution, although you need to be sensitive to issues such as uprooting schoolchildren.

Under present tax laws, you can each sell your house and pocket as much as $250,000 in tax-free gain as long as you have lived in and owned your residence for two of the past five years. There is no longer a requirement to "trade up," so you have more flexibility in finding your new house.

Most couples own the home as joint tenants with right of survivorship so the house would pass directly to the surviving spouse. However, you may consider owning the house as tenants in common, because then you can own unequal shares (if one spouse contributes the down payment, for example) and you specify your heirs in your will. Speak to a lawyer, as this is a tricky area.

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