About Name Changes
There may come a time in your life where you’ll want to change your name just like the thousands of other Americans who do each year. While no one keeps an official record, Bruce Lansky, author of 45,000+ Baby Names, estimates that roughly 50,000 people change their name each year.1 There can be quite a few steps that go into changing your name and there is a myriad of reasons as to why people do it.
Why Change Your Name?
There are many reasons why someone would want to change their name. The most common is marriage and, by extension, divorce. Approximately 80% of women take their husband’s surname following their marriage.1 Another reason could be adoption. As children grow older and enter adulthood, they may surprise their step-parent by presenting them an official certificate of adoption showcasing their new name. Further examples include distancing from an abusive family, converting to a new religion, simplifying from a complicated name, or taking on a more suiting moniker for gender identity. However, there are certain hindrances when considering a name change. For example, you can’t change your name to avoid bill or other payments. Whatever your reason, the steps for legally changing your name in the United States are generally the same.
How to Legally Change Your Name
With the exception of marriages and divorces, you’ll need to follow the same basic steps for changing your name.2
- Prove Residency
- Prove Your Current Name
- Fill Out a Petition
- File the Petition
- Attend the Hearing
In order to change your name in your state, you’ll need to prove you live there. You’ll also need to have lived within your state a minimum amount of time that varies. Each state has unique paperwork to file, so ensure you find the correct forms and provide the appropriate evidence.
The next step entails proving your current legal name. Each state requires different forms of identification, but it’s generally acceptable to provide your Social Security card, birth certificate, and driver’s license or other valid photo ID.
Again, this form varies state-to-state. Find your state’s appropriate petition form and fill it out with all of the required information. Since this is an official form, you won’t be allowed to sign it privately and will need to do so in front of a notary public.
After you’ve completely filled out your name change petition, you’ll send it to the court clerk who will then schedule a hearing. There’s usually a filing charge, so be prepared to pay a fee. This charge varies according to the court, so ask ahead of time how much your filing fee will cost.
At this point, all that’s left is to attend your scheduled hearing. You’ll be presented before a judge and may be asked why you are changing your name. It is then up to the judge to approve your name change. Following the hearing if your name change is approved, the judge will file an Order and you will be given a copy. The Order is required for any place needing your legal name, and you can usually request additional copies from the court.
Marriages are different in that you typically won’t need to schedule or attend a hearing nor fill out a petition in the first place. All you’ll need is your marriage license approved to start the process of changing all of your accounts.
Updating Your Information
Now that you’ve changed your name, where should you update with your new information? Any sort of official service you use needs to have your current legal name, so here’s a list of places to update with your new name:
- Social Security: This should be first on your list, and you’ll need to fill out and submit an SS-5 Form to adjust your Social Security card.3
- Vehicle Information: Visit your local DMV or their website to see how to update your driver’s license and vehicle’s title & registration.
- Apartment Lease: Ask your apartment’s staff or landlord if they need to update their records with your new name and how they want it to be done.
- Mortgage: Each financial institution handles mortgages differently, so be sure to contact your lender to find out how they want you to update your mortgage information.4
- Bank Accounts: Contact your financial institution(s) of choice and ask how you can update your savings, credit, debit, and other accounts.
- Work: Get in touch with the appropriate individuals at your work to update your official information with them, including your Name Tag and Desk Name Plate.
- Passport: You’ll want to update your passport with your new name as well or you will not be able to travel outside of the country.
- Medical: There’s not much reason to update your medical records since your Patient Identification Number should stay the same so long as you inform your PCP of your name change during your next appointment so your new records can be combined with the old.
- Insurance: Contact your insurance provider so you can see how to update your information and remain covered.
There are other places you can update with your name such as on your birth certificate, but some places will require you to provide evidence of your previous name for verification. If there are other places people need to update with their new legal name, leave a comment below. We appreciate further information, and for all of your identification needs, visit Name Tag Wizard for a wide selection of name badges and desk and wall plates.
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