Thursday, May 29, 2014

What's in a Name (Change)?

So you're getting married (or have gotten married) and have decided to change your last name. Congrats! Here are five steps to follow to make it a little easier.  In an effort to keep this post as focused and straightforward as possible, I'm going to assume that you are changing your last name only and that you have not been married before.  There are links, however, so you can explore the steps required if you are in a different situation, as many people are. There are tips along the way, and even MORE at the very bottom of the page. Read it all through and let me know how it goes for you!

Step 1: Apply for (before the wedding) and Get (after the wedding) Your Marriage License-
Check out, click on your state and the County Courthouse nearest you. Read about any interesting rules, how to apply (both partners must go) and what to bring (proof of ID, proof of age and proof of social security numbers, as well as the appropriate fee in cash).  Note: fees vary depending upon state and county, but tend to be in the $26-85 range. Check and know your timing- In Pennsylvania, for example, a marriage license has a 3 day waiting period, then is valid for 60 days. You can pick it up or have it mailed to you, and it is valid for a wedding in any county in the state until the end of the 60 day period. Upon completion of the ceremony, the officiant must sign a copy of the license and send it back to the county court within 10 days after the wedding. Typically, you'll receive an official copy of your Marriage License with a raised seal within about 10 days after being submitted. This is what you'll need to start the name change process for everything else. Once you have it, you can...

Step 2: Apply for a new Social Security Card-
This step is free and fairly easy, and you have 2 options:
   You can access form SS-5 online, print it, fill it out and mail it to any SSA office with originals of all necessary documents. You'll need to provide at least two documents to prove age, identity, and U.S. citizenship or current lawful, work-authorized immigration status. In order to change your name on your Social Security record, you must provide your Marriage License, which should state both your maiden name and your new name. They'll mail everything back to you, along with your new Social Security Card, in about 10 days after it is received and processed.
   ...or you can take all of those same documents and visit an office in person. This is the fastest way to take care of Step 2, and despite the potentially long wait, it'll be done that day. I highly recommend this option if you're able to do so. You can find an office here.
Tips: Bring a book along and prepare yourself for a wait. Check the office's hours and go first thing in the morning if you can. Bring a snack and a bottle of water (you might have to step out of the office to indulge, but you'll be glad you did if you're facing a long wait). Bring some music, a game, work, etc. and cross your fingers that it goes fast! Oh, and make sure you're listening for your name/number! The HUGE plus of going to the Social Security office in person is that they'll give you a letter of approval that day, and you can take it to the DMV for Step 3 within the next few days. Your new Social Security Card (same number, different last name) will arrive in about 10 days, but in the meantime, you can move forward with the name changing process. In any case, when you get your new card (or your letter of approval!), you can go ahead and...

Step 3: Get a New Driver's License! 
Head to the DMV (Find the nearest location here) with all forms of ID that you can find, your Social Security Card (or letter of Approval from the SSA office), your Marriage License and the appropriate form(s) and fees. Some states require a gap of 2 or 3 days between applying for your SS card and getting your new license, but in some states, you can go the same day. 
Visit, choose your state, then scroll down to License & ID on the bottom left and click on Address and Name Change for all of the information that you'll need. Note: This is a private site, but is very helpful. You'll just want to scroll past the ads. 

Forms you Might Need to Fill Out and Bring Along:
DL-143: Non-Commercial Driver's License Application for Renewal (Use this form if your license will expire within the next 6 months)
*Note: Most of us have a Non-Commercial Driver's License
DL-80: Non-Commercial Driver's License Application for Change/Correction/Replacement (If your license is still valid and good for more than 6 months, use this one. Select 'Update Card' in Section B for a FREE update card to carry with your license until you're due for a new one. Select 'License/ID Card' in the same section if you want to get a new license card altogether). 
DL-901: ID Card, Learner's Permit Application to Renew/Replace/Change/Correct (Use this one is you have a Learner's Permit or a State-Issued ID Card, but not a license) 

You can also make these changes via mail by sending all necessary documents, forms and fees to the address specified on the application form. 

Fees must be in the form of a check or money order, made payable to PennDot: (Note: These are specific to Pennsylvania, which is where I live and where I changed my name. If you live somewhere else, check for details on your fees. 
Replacement Driver's License: $27.50
Driver's License Update Card: Free
Commercial Driver's License (CDL): $27.50
Registration Card: Free
Vehicle Title: $50

Step 4: Banks a Lot- Update Those Bank Accounts! 
Once you have your new Marriage License, Social Security Card & Driver's License, you'll want to head to the nearest branch of your bank and do some financial updating. You may even want to go in with your significant other in case you want to set up/adjust any joint accounts or make any important changes together. You'll want to change your name (and address, if applicable) with the bank, and you should also make sure that all accounts, credit cards, loans, debit cards, and checks are updated. Note: I read that they could hit you with a fee for a new debit card, but I didn't experience that and hope that you won't either. 
  Oh, and when you're ready to deposit checks made out to "Mr. & Mrs. ____" after your wedding, check with your bank to see what the procedure is. My bank wanted my husband to sign it, then for me to sign "first name+maiden name, AKA first name + married last name" on every. single. one. Friends have had different experiences, ranging from only the groom signing each one, to only the bride signing each one with her maiden name without a problem. To make things easier, as a guest, I've started writing checks out to just the groom (and then writing Congrats, Mr. & Mrs. _____! on the little memo line). You could also write it to "John Smith OR Jane Doe", giving the option for either party to sign and deposit it. Thinking you may just give cash to avoid the hassle? Think again.  If you're giving your monetary gift at the wedding, a check is the safest way to go. 

Step 5: Everything Else!
Who would you notify if you were changing your address? You'll also want to notify them that you're changing your name. 
Each company has its own procedure for handling name and address changes. Sometimes a phone call is enough. Other times, you may need to fax, email, mail, submit online or drop something off in person. Find out the procedure and take care of it, one step at a time. 
Another helpful tip? Look through your wallet and watch the mailbox! When you see something with your maiden name, contact the source and change it. If it's something you don't want anymore, cancel it. Keep watching until you're only seeing your new name, then smile because you're almost there :) 

These final changes include:
- Your online accounts- You've probably already started this, as making your marriage 'facebook official' was likely among one of the first things you did before you left for your honeymoon. Go ahead and update the rest of your online accounts. It'll be fun to see your new last name come up in your email account, on Twitter, on your professional profile on LinkedIn, and even on Amazon and Etsy. 
- Employers, payroll, clients and any person/company that handles your benefits.
- The Post Office (especially with an address change) and Voter Registration Office
- Any other credit card companies, loan sources, investment account providers, and/or mortgage company 
- Your Landlord and Utility providers (electric, cable/internet, gas, cell phone, etc.)
- Schools, alumni associations, professionally affiliated organizations, and don't forget to update your resumé!
- Insurance Companies (car, house, life, renter's, etc.), AAA, etc.
- Doctors and health care providers
- Your Attorney (to update legal documents, including your will. Did you know that wills made before marriage are cancelled automatically upon marriage unless specified otherwise in the will? Also, it's recommended that you update your will every 5 years, and create one as you go through any/all of the stages of adulthood, including but not limited to getting married, having children, buying a home, etc.
- The Passport Office (DS-82 will help you renew your passport with your new last name. It will cost $110 and take 4-6 weeks, or 2-3 weeks with an expedited option for an extra $60). If you've gotten or renewed your passport in the past year, it's free to renew with your new name! Visit for more! 

A Few More Tips: 
- When you're booking your honeymoon, use the name that will be on your license and passport for your travel documents. For your resort stay, you can book as Mr. & Mrs., but you won't want to be stuck in the airport because your passport still has your maiden name and your ticket says something else. 
- Consider using an online site such as or the Kleinfeld Name Change Kit on The Nest. You provide your basic information and get your Social Security Card and they take care of the rest. These tend to be $25-50, but I've seen MissNowMrs specials on Groupon occasionally for $15. A great timesaver, a brilliant idea, and I have friends who had positive experiences using it. 
- Make a list of all of your accounts, and as you take care of the name changing process for each, check it off so you know it's done. 
- If you're going to do it, start right away, and do it completely! To make your life easier and avoid confusion on all ends, once you get the ball rolling on your name change, keep the momentum until it's all done. You don't want to have some things with your new name and some with your maiden name floating around a year from now. Different steps do take different amounts of time, but have a realistic timeframe in mind and get it done.  
- It's not too hard to do it yourself, you can save a little money and put it toward something fun, or just put it into that new joint bank account!
- You have the option to get married at the county courthouse a few weeks before the wedding and start the name change process then, that way when you have your ceremony with family and friends, everything's already in motion. It may take something away from the wedding magic, and I wouldn't want to be sitting in the DMV or the Social Security office in the week or two leading up to the wedding, but if you have the time and energy to devote to it, it may make post-wedding life a little easier and clear-cut for you.
- There are other options for name changing that are totally acceptable, and some people don't change their names at all. Consider these options if you're not sure that taking his last name is up your alley, but don't go that route just because the process is overwhelming. Once you get started, it's not that hard and it seems a little daunting, but honestly, it's not. It's sort of fun, and you'll have it done in no time.
- Not sure why you've decided to change your name? Get deep and look into the social implications and reasoning here.  

Congratulations and good luck! 

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