The Name Change Process
Are you recently married? Is the prospect of changing your name too overwhelming? I have already been through the name change process and I put together a little step by step to help you figure it out. This all started because I was the first of my group of friends to get married. I was the name change guinea pig. Soon after, a newly engaged friend asked me for help with the name change process. I wrote a very long email to her on what to do. The email has since been forwarded numerous times and sent to other friends so I thought it would be helpful if I shared it with everyone. Who knows? Maybe it'll help you on your name change journey too!
Changing your name is a big pain but it’s definitely worth it. Bear with me because this post is going to be really long (like the original email). This is not an overnight process so don’t get overwhelmed. This took me about 2 months and I still find random things I need to update. Try and keep records of everything if you can. Make sure you set aside some money in your new family budget for all the fees associated with this process.
A quick note about going on international honeymoons before you legally change your name - make sure your ticket information is in your maiden name (like your passport). It will create a huge hassle for you if it isn’t. And keep in mind you will have to fill out all the Customs documents separately from your husband because you still technically have different names.
Now let’s get started:
(1.) First things first you need to decide what your new full name will be. Your last names hyphened? Dropping your middle name and making your last name your middle name? Dropping your last name all together? To each his own! But definitely make your final decision and stick with it across the board.
(2.) Order extra certified copies of your marriage certificate for agencies that require originals before allowing you to change your name on documents, such as the department of motor vehicles. I bought 4 copies. I kept one in my purse with me for a few months after the wedding just in case and put one in our safety deposit box and used the other two for the name change process (the agencies that need originals). Some places require to keep and/or make a copy of the certified copy and some will allow you to send or give copies of the certified copy. Definitely read the requirements for each application carefully. I just went to the Annapolis Court House to get my certified copies but you can also order them online but they are more expensive then getting them in person. Here is the website.* I also made a few copies of the copies and kept them on hand.
(3.) Your next step is to request a new Social Security card. Call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit their website to obtain forms and instructions. You must do this first after your get your certified copies. You can’t get a new driver’s license reflecting your new name until you have the new social security card in hand (I made that mistake and wasted my time at the MVA).
(4.) Make an appointment to visit the department of motor vehicles for a new driver's license. Here is the Maryland MVA website.* Ask in advance which documents you'll need to bring in order to certify the validity of your name change (old license, certified copy of marriage certificate, social security card, and birth certificate). Now that you have your new social security card, driver’s license and certified copies of your marriage license- the rest of the steps can be done in any order really. I did try to list them on level on importance.
(5.) Obtain and complete a Passport Amendment/Validation Application (Form DS-11). Send this along with appropriate fees, your current passport(s), and a certified documentation of your name change (such as a certified copy of a marriage certificate or court papers) to the nearest passport agency.
(6.) Update your bank account(s) and savings account(s) information. I had to go in to my bank and provide a copy of my marriage license for them to update my account. Order replacements for checks, business cards, credit cards and other documents that contain your old name. Make sure you update the companies on your new address if applicable. Make sure you have a discussion with your hubby about your banking plan, i.e. separate accounts, one joint account, or separate and joint accounts. It will make the process a lot easier. If you switch to one joint account, make sure you switch over all your automatic withdrawal accounts. Keep your separate account open with a $ buffer until you’re 110% positive everything has been transferred correctly.
(7.) Call employers and schools (if you are a student) to let them know your new name, and ask them to change it in their records. This is particularly important so that they update your federal and state tax documents. You should also update your beneficiary forms. Getting HR to change my name at my work was a huge pain and I really hope you have an easier process than I’ve had. I keep a scanned copy our marriage license in my Gmail account so it’s always accessible from a computer or my phone.
(8.) Change your name on your car registration (fee & application info on MVA website). Change your name with your health, dental, vision, car, homebuyer/renters insurance (make sure you let them know you’re married- your rates may drop!) and mortgage/leasing companies. Talk to your hubby about combining and changing your health, dental, and vision insurance to family plans. Your rates will usually drop. Most companies require a “qualifying life event” to change our insurance plan and marriage is considered one of them but again you’ll need the certified copy of your marriage license.
(9.) Contact the post office, utility companies (BGE, cable, etc.), cell phone company, and registrar of voters* (you may have the option to do this on your driver’s license application) and any companies that bill you- such as magazines about your name and address change. Combining your cell phone contracts can sometimes save you $ too.
(10.) Update any online accounts you have set up- EBay, PayPal, Amazon, etc. Some will require a phone call or even a fax of a certified copy of your marriage license. Make sure you change your mailing address! Another thing people don’t think of right away is their frequent flier programs or hotel cards. So that’s a good thing to get updated when you have free time.
Just remember this is not an overnight process. Do not get overwhelmed. It will all be worth it!
*This may vary by state.