The Ultimate Guide to Changing Your Name
Want to change your name? Here’s exactly what you need to do.
Looking to change your name?
Whatever your reason for changing your name, this page has the information you need to make the switch quickly and easily.
In addition to covering what you need to know about changing your name, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the name change process.
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An Introduction to Changing Your Name
What you need to know and do to change your name depends on why you’re changing your name. This page will cover what you need to know about changing your name for reasons other than marriage or divorce.
If you’re changing your name after marriage, check out the resource above. You can also learn about changing your name after divorce. Otherwise, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about legally changing your name.
Two Ways to Legally Change Your Name
When you’re changing your name for reasons other than marriage or divorce, you have two options:
- By usage: You can change your name by simply using your new name on all personal, business, and social communications.
- By court order: You can file a Petition for Name Change with a court in your state.
Changing Your Name by Usage
While some states do allow name change through usage alone, some practical complications may arise with using this method since it will not be accepted by many institutions (such as most banks, or the federal government).
If updating your name on things like your passport and bank accounts is important to you, then you will want to go the court order route to ensure your name change is officially recognized by all institutions.
Changing Your Name by Court Order
Changing your name by filing a “Petition for Name Change” with the court is typically the preferred method for legal name change because it establishes a legally documented record of your name change and is recognized by all government institutions.
Legal Requirements: Can You Change Your Name?
The precise process of your name change may differ slightly depending on the state. That said, there are generally three legal requirements for changing your name, regardless of your state.
Those requirements are
1. You must be a resident.
Depending on the state, you may be required to have been a resident for six months or more before you’re allowed to change your name. If you live in a state with this time requirement, you’ll also be asked to prove the length of your residence.
2. You must have a legitimate, legal reason for changing your name.
There are several legitimate reasons for changing your name so it’s easier to cover what is not a legitimate name change. You cannot change your name to defraud others or avoid debts or legal actions.
You also may not change your name to:
- A name that’s intentionally confusing
- An obscene, threatening, or racist word
- A punctuation mark or number
- A trademarked name (unless you get consent from the trademark owner)
You’re also not allowed to change your name to benefit from the identity of a famous person.
3. You must file your name change application in the correct court.
The court where you should file your name change will usually be in the county you live in.
Legitimate Reasons for Changing Your Name
The reasons behind your name change are important for two reasons.
First, your reason must be legitimate for a court to legally accept your name change. Second, depending on the reason, the legal process of changing your name will be slightly different.
Legitimate reasons to change your name include:
- Changing your name after marriage to match your last name to your spouse’s
- Changing back to your maiden name after a divorce
- Dissatisfaction with your current name
You can also change the name of your entire family at once or the name of a minor if you are their legal guardian or parent.
Though in those scenarios, you’ll need to file a family or minor name change form rather than the typical adult name change application.
The Process for Changing Your Name
Assuming you’re seeking to change your name through a formal legal name change, your first step is to go to the correct court and file a petition.
Generally, you’re also required to give notice of your name change through a local newspaper. The notice states that you’ve filed a petition for a name change.
You’ll also need to notify the people—such as your spouse—whom your name change will affect.
Once that’s done, in most states, you’ll have a hearing during which your name change petition is given a final review. At that time, any interested parties will have an opportunity to comment on or object to the name change.
The court will then decide if there are any reasonable objections to your proposed name change and, if not, they’ll authorize your name change with an official judgment known as a “Name Change Order”.
After the Name Change
Once a court has ruled in favor of your name change, there will be a record of the court order approving your name change. That court issued name change order will serve as evidence to prove that your name has been legally changed.
When you change your name on your social security card, passport, driver’s license, and other important places, you’ll need this court order.
Where You Need to Change Your Name
Perhaps the most stressful part of changing your name is simply keeping track of all the different places you need to get your name changed.
However, while it’s important to change your name on your bank accounts, credit cards, phone and utility bills, and other places, it’s critical to get your name changed on your passport, your social security card, and your driver’s license.
Fortunately, since they’re managed at a federal level, the process for changing your name on your passport and your social security card is similar regardless of what state you live in.
However, changing your last name on your driver’s license is another matter.
Since each state has its own Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you’ll have to deal with different procedures depending on the state you live in.
For more information on changing your name on your driver’s license, passport, or social security card, use the appropriate resource below.
Who to Notify of Your Name Change
Of course, your social security card, driver’s license and passport aren’t the only places you’ll need to update your name—though they are the most important.
Here are the other organizations, agencies, and people you’ll need to notify:
- Your bank and other financial institutions
- Membership and subscription providers
- Your state tax authority
- The IRS
- The post office
- Voter registration
- Credit card issuers
- Insurance providers
It’s also a good idea to revisit and revise any personal legal documents such as a trust, property deed, power of attorney, or your will to reflect your updated name.
How long do you have to change your name after getting married?
You have as long as you want to change your name after getting married.
While many states prefer that you notify them that you’ve changed your name within 30 days after your wedding, you’ll still be allowed to change your name even if you wait.
Do I have to change my name on my bank account after marriage?
You aren’t legally required to change your name on your bank account after getting married.
However, you’ll likely run into practical complications if you choose to keep your maiden name on your bank account while using your married name elsewhere.
For example, if you’re using your married name elsewhere and your maiden name on your bank account you’ll need additional documents to prove to your employer, mortgage companies, and other institutions that the bank account with your maiden name is indeed yours.
Do you have to change your name on your social security card when you get married?
You aren’t legally required to change your name on your social security card when you get married.
But if you want to get a driver’s license, passport, and other documents with your married name on it, you will need to change your name on your social security card.
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