Blog

How to Legally Change Your Name

May 20, 2020
How to Legally Change Your Name

Legally Changing Your Name

Changing your name may sound easy, but you may not be aware of some complications that can arise. For example, will your new name be legal? You will need to make sure you file the proper paperwork with the court clerk and publish it if necessary. A woman will need to understand if there are any restrictions related to how she wants to handle her married name. Are you prepared for a hearing and the questions the judge may ask? Are you aware of the transition to start using your new name?

Reasons Why People Change Their Names

You can change your name for just about any reason, provided you take the appropriate steps required. The process for changing a name after divorce differs from the steps you would take to change your name after getting married.

Some reasons people change their names include:

  • Marriage

  • Divorce

  • Personal preference

  • Gender identity
     

6 Steps to Legally Change Your Name

The reason for wanting to change your name dictates how you go about the process. For most of these processes, you will need to turn to the laws in your state of residence. While state laws vary, the general process for a name change involves:

  1. Fill out the paperwork.
  2. File a petition with the court clerk and pay the required filing fee.

  3. Publish the name change.

  4. Attend the hearing and receive a court order.
  5. Update any accounts, paperwork, and other identification that has your old name.
  6. Start using your new name.

Changing Your Name After Getting Married or After Divorce

In the case of marriage, you can skip the petition portion of the name-change process. Instead, you notify the Social Security Administration by completing their Form SS-5 and submitting it, along with a certified copy of your marriage certificate and a copy of your passport, driver’s license, or other proof of ID and citizenship.

If you are going through a divorce, most states let you restore your maiden name during the divorce proceedings. The judge will issue the order, which you can then use to notify other government entities about your name change.
 

Notable Change Name Exceptions


Names of Famous People

You cannot change your name to the name of a or famous person with the intent to mislead others about your identity. If your great grandmother’s name just happens to be the same as a famous person, or you have a similarly compelling reason to change your name, the courts might consider swaying on this point, but generally, courts will refuse these requests.


Menacing Names

You cannot change your name to an obscene or threatening word, or a phrase that incites violence. The terms of these restrictions will be outlined within state law of your state.


Names to Hide from the Law

You cannot change your name with the intent to commit fraud—to evade arrest or dodge creditors, for example—or to otherwise commit a crime.


Confusing Names

You cannot change your name to one that your state law defines as confusing, like a name that uses numbers, characters, or punctuation.
 

Filing Your Name Change in Court

With the prevalence of identity theft and credit card fraud, agencies and organizations can no longer take people at their word regarding their identities. You will need to go through the proper channels and procedures to change your name on your birth certificate, Social Security card, and passport. Each of these changes will require some sort of process and documentation.
 

Notifying People, Parties, and Entities of Your New Name

This step of changing your name requires a little legwork and considerable patience. In addition to informing your family and friends of your new name, you will also need to alert a number of other entities if you want to keep your affairs running smoothly.

Some of these organizations will incorporate your name change with little to no fuss. Others might ask for a court order to alleviate their understandable concerns about fraud or identity theft.

Use the following as a checklist as a start for updating records:

  • Post office

  • Employers

  • Banks and financial institutions

  • Wireless carriers

  • Utility company

  • Phone company

  • Department of Motor Vehicles

  • Creditors (credit cards, subscriptions, and memberships)

  • Registrar of Voters

  • U.S. Passport Office

  • Social Security Administration

  • Department of Records or Vital Statistics

  • State taxing authority

  • Veterans Administration

  • Insurance agencies
  • Public assistance office


Be sure to dig up any legal documents that might refer to your old name and update them with your new name. Examples of these documents include titles, accounts, deeds, powers of attorney, and estate-planning documents.
 

What Does It Cost to Change My Name?

The cost of changing your name depends on several factors, including why and how you plan to change it. If you’re legally changing your name, you will pay filing and/or court fees.
 

Talk to an Attorney About How to Legally Change Your Name

You have given a great deal of thought to your name change, and while the process of making it happen may not appear to be difficult, one oversight can lead to delays, inconvenience, and frustration. Consider seeking the help of a lawyer who is familiar with your state laws regarding name changes so you can be sure to get it right the first time.

For assistance with your name change, contact LegalShield.

LegalShield provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to LegalShield Members through member-based participation. Neither LegalShield nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation or advice. See a plan contract for specific state of residence for complete terms, coverage, amounts, and conditions. This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact an attorney for legal advice or assistance. If you are a LegalShield member, you should contact your Provider Law Firm.

Start Your Legalshield Plan and Speak with an Attorney About Changing Your Name.