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The Name Change Game

Thinking of changing your name? Here are a few steps to consider.

Written by: Rachel Coon
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The Name Change Game

Changing your name is a legal puzzle that will take time. But don’t worry—it’s not really as overwhelming as you might think. First, consider your options:

  • Keep your given name.
  • Take your spouse's name.
  • Take your spouse's name legally, but keep your given name professionally.
  • Make your given surname your middle name and take your spouse's last name.
  • Go with the hyphen.
  • Let him take your last name.
  • Create a new last name. 

The steps will vary depending on the choice you make, but should you decide to take your new partner's name or change your surname in any way, then you'll want to consider timing, especially when planning your honeymoon. If you’ll be honeymooning immediately following the wedding, we suggest making your travel reservations (airline tickets, hotel reservations, etc.) in your maiden name, as you won’t have time to change your name on all of your required travel documents, particularly your passport. Applying for a new passport will take several weeks, and depending on whether your most recent passport was issued within the last year or more than a year ago, the time for processing will vary.

If the honeymoon won’t happen for several weeks—or better yet, months—after the wedding, you might have time to change your most important documents before traveling. Just make sure you absolutely will have time to complete the switch, especially if you’ve made reservations in your new name.

When all else fails and the time comes to head to the airport, bring a folder with you full of every document you can possibly think of—an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate, your birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license, passport, and all necessary travel documents (boarding passes, reservation receipts, etc.). This will help prove your identity as well as your recent marriage.

Finally, happy travels!

When you’re ready, here are the steps to the name change game.

  1. Have your marriage certificate on hand. You’ll need the original (or a certified copy of the) marriage certificate with your new last name on it. If a certificate wasn’t automatically sent to you, call the clerk’s office where your license was filed to get copies.
  1. Update your Social Security card. Don’t worry—you’ll keep the same number! Just visit the Social Security Administration’s website to fill out an application for a new card showing your new name. Once submitted, expect your new card in about 10 business days.
  1. Get a new driver’s license. With your new SSN card in hand, head to the local Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a license with your new last name. Bring every form of identification you can lay your hands on, like old license, marriage certificate, passport, and proofs of residency.
  1. Change your bank accounts. This is important, especially if you’re setting up or already have a joint bank account. The fastest way is to visit a branch location—with your new driver’s license and marriage certificate. Request new checks and debit and credit cards while you’re there. And be prepared: there might be fees.
  1. Talk to the HR department. Update work records and benefits, and inform your employer so paychecks and benefits reflect the new name. Review your tax withholdings and make any necessary changes. And now that you have new family members, remember to go over your insurance coverage and beneficiaries.
  1. Notify creditors. If you don’t tell lenders, you won’t have a credit history under your new married name, which can create obstacles during a credit check. Once notified, creditors will update their records and report the new information to the credit reporting agencies. Consumers should see the new name on their credit reports within a few months.
  1. Cover all the bases…eventually. Once you have a new Social Security card and driver’s license, other changes should be fairly easy. Some places only require a phone call; others may ask for a copy of your marriage certificate or Social Security card.

 

Places to notify:

  • Insurance companies (auto, home, life)
  • Credit card companies
  • Loans (personal, student)
  • Post office
  • Utility companies
  • Landlord or mortgage company
  • School and alumni associations
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Voter registration office
  • Investment account providers
  • Your attorney (to update legal documents, including your will)
  • Professional licensing boards
  • Magazine subscriptions
  • Points programs (hotels, airlines)

After getting through all the important updates, it will be a matter of changing your name as you come across miscellaneous accounts and subscriptions.

FAQs

How long after my wedding do I have to change my name? There’s no time limit. Your marriage certificate is good for as long as you are married. Some organizations (like benefits and insurance companies), however, will require you to change your name within a certain time, so make sure to look into that.

What if my marriage certificate does not show the name I want to use? In many areas it’s normal for the marriage certificate to show just the couple’s previous names, so this shouldn’t be a problem.

What records should I change first? Changing your name with the Social Security Administration is the most important step. After that, update your government (like driver’s licenses) and financial records (like banking accounts).

How long will it take to update my records? After you get the most important records out of the way, it’s up to you. It will take time before everyone gets the message, and you’ll likely get mail addressed to your former name for a while.

Must I change my name on all my records? Apart from situations where an agency or organization requires your official name you may opt to keep some records in your former name if the time and effort involved with changing them outweigh the benefits. Some brides continue using their former names—like, for example, a writer who wishes to keep her byline.

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