How to change your name after marriage?
Changing names after marriage. Is it romantic? A sign of commitment to your new family? Or just a straight up chore? No matter how you look at it one thing is for sure… if you tackle this yourself, you can expect the process to take weeks of googling, form filling and time on hold. There are some services that can shave weeks off your name change for a small fee, but the steps are much the same no matter how you approach it.
We’ve teamed up with the experts at Easy Name Change in this 3rd part of our 5 part series on changing names, and this article is looking at American couples!
Meet the pro
Genevieve Dennis founded Easy Name Change in 2008. They provide ready to send forms, letters and emails along with fully researched company instructions. The company has helped over 1 million people transition to their new name.
Get your marriage certificate
The great thing for American couples is that all wedding certificates are accepted no matter where they were issued. This means if you were married abroad, you can use a foreign issued marriage certificate as proof of your new name. Marriage certificates should be in English or else have an approved translation and they must be issued by a government authority.
If you’ve lost your wedding certificate apply for a replacement from the county clerk (USA) or embassy (if married abroad). Most couples already have their official marriage certificate, so let’s consider your new name…
Decide on your new name.
The SSA allow all popular married name changes, so before you update the SSA be sure your chosen name is allowed by your state DMV and that you have the correct proof to make the change. This is important because some state DMVs have slightly different policies on what married names are allowed.
All state DMVs allow you to drop your surname and take your spouse’s surname in its place. However, if you want something different there are limitations in some states. So it’s recommended you contact your state DMV by email to check if your chosen name will be allowed before you update the SSA.
For example, the DMV in Washington will not allow a bride to move her maiden name to become a middle name unless she has a legal name change order issued by a US court. Some states require your preferred married name to be listed on your wedding certificate. so if you were married overseas or out of state that may be an issue.
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Complete the form SSA-5 Application for a Social Security Number, using your new name. It’s the same form as if you are signing up with the SSA for the first time. Your social security number does not change. Apply by either in person or by mail. Most people go in person because they don’t want to post original identity documents. You need one document proving your identity (e.g. state DMV driver or non-driver card or US passport) in addition to your marriage certificate. Proof of US citizenship is required if not already on file, so be prepared! All linked agencies will have visibility of the updated SSA record within 2 working days.
There’s no getting around this one – you have to go to your DMV in person so your original documents can be verified, your new signature witnessed and possibly a new photo will be taken. If you’re lucky your state lets you book an appointment online so you’re not waiting unnecessarily. Some states have forms. All need to sight your current license and original marriage certificate at a minimum but check before heading down as you may need additional identity documents. If you are updating to REAL ID, then refer to your state’s identification guide and come prepared! New licenses are usually mailed a few weeks later.
Banks and other financial institutions
Hold off updating banks, credit unions, loans and other financials until you have received updated photo ID – most financial institutions want to see you are already using your new name. If your bank has many branches, then chances are you need to front up in person with your updated photo ID and marriage certificate. Are your mortgage, loans and credit cards with the same bank that can usually be taken care of on the same visit. If you have a joint account holder, call ahead to see if they need to be present with you at the bank or could provide written consent instead. Credit cards are reissued following a name change, so you’ll also need to update all those pesky direct debits too.
The next 10 to 20 places (or maybe 40…?)
It doesn’t really seem fair to dump the biggest chunk of work into the last step, but from here there is generally no order to which companies should go next. Most people have another 10 to 20 companies, but some people have another 40 or more places to update (yowch!) You’ll need to send in a range of letters, forms and emails. You’ll also have places where you need to log into your account and either send a secure message or update your name in the online settings. This is a good time to review your accounts and see just how many places you need to notify – a name change kit could help you get a day of newlywed life back!
- If you are attending any location in person, always be prepared to show original proof documents.
- Consider blocking out a chunk of time mid-week to attend to in-person name changes as the SSA, banks and DMV can be busier around the weekend.
- Not sure what proof to take? If in doubt play it safe and take a few more identity documents rather than less documents. Nothing sucks more than having to come back because you don’t have a pesky proof of address document!
- Too many accounts? This could be a great time to consider slimming down your credit cards, consolidating insurance policies and merging loans. No one likes paperwork but there could be some great savings out the other end which could make the exercise all the sweeter.
- Have you thought about making a will? Marriage immediately voids any previous will. Although your estate passes to your spouse without a will, there are additional complexities and costs if you don’t have a valid will.
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