So you are getting married – congratulations! It’s an exciting and hopeful time in any woman’s life, and there is a lot to think about. One issue that comes up pretty soon after you’ve said, “Yes!” is whether or not you will be changing your name to his – or adding his to your current name.
What Is a Name Change Checklist?
A name change checklist will guide you through the undergrowth of changing your name. It explains the legal requirements you will need to meet. It will also give you some very useful guidance on how to go about name changing in the most efficient and painless way possible.
Should You Change Your Name?
Once upon a time, there was no question. As the lovely old song says,
“I’ll be with you in apple blossom time
I’ll be with you to change your name to mine.”
These days there is little social pressure to change your name. No one is likely to comment if you don’t do it. Women have the choice of whether to change their name, but there are pros and cons to retaining your existing name.
- We really don’t want to rain on your parade, but the average American marriage lasts just eight years. Yours, of course, will be a forever relationship, but you might just keep that statistic at the back of your mind.
- Women are marrying at a much higher age than they did in the past. The average age at which a woman gets married in America in 2021 was 28.6 years. There is an upward trend to marry when you are more mature. This means that you are probably established in your career and are known by your maiden name. A change of name might mean that, for example, when people are assessing you for promotion or for a new position, your previous accomplishments might not show up when someone checks you out online. A change of identity might be confusing if you are a professional person.
- An older woman will also have a multitude of official things attached to her maiden name. Just a few include your Social Security number, your driving license, your passport, your bank account, your credit cards, loan and hire purchase agreements, rental agreements, investments, your mortgage, and much more. Changing all of these myriad things is going to involve you a considerable amount of work.
- 15% of American women marry more than once. If this is a second or third marriage, you may well have children. If your children are grown up, this isn’t an issue, but if they are still young, this could be a problem. You might want to consider that having a different name from your children could be awkward from time to time.
- You might consider that taking a man’s name is, in some ways, denying your own history and personality. This is a very personal decision, but don’t be afraid to stick with your maiden name if that is what you prefer. Around 30% of American women don’t take their husband’s name, but interestingly in these very liberated times, that percentage is actually decreasing.
Should You Just Add His Name To Yours?
Portmanteau names have become common. Adding to your original surname, the name of everyone you have ever been married to still requires you to go through name-changing procedures. And it can get very unwieldy, especially if double-barreled names are involved. This is definitely a trend to think carefully about before you adopt it.
The Ultimate Name Change Checklist
- Your marriage certificate is the key document that you are going to need to get all of this other stuff done. You’ll get your certificate from the legal official who presides at your wedding. (This may not be the same person as the one who performs the ceremony.)
- It’s a good idea to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate. This can be obtained from the issuing office for a small fee, and having a copy means that you can keep the original document safely at home. This generally takes about a week. We think it’s a great idea to have more than one copy made. This means that you can be getting on with more than one name change task at a time.
- If you have made travel reservations in your maiden name, don’t change the name on your passport until that travel is completed. Wait until you are not going to need your passport for a while before changing the name on your passport, as this can be a long process. Up to six weeks or even more should be allowed for changes to your passport.
The next big thing on the list is to change your Social Security card. This is the key that unlocks name changes for many government and state documents. Generally speaking, your Social Security card acts as a kind of anchor document for many other official documents. You’ll need to submit an SS-5 form to your nearest Social Security Office to get this name change accomplished. You’ll need your marriage certificate and a valid photo id to get this change made. It’s a pretty routine procedure, but one that you need to get out of the way first.
- Next on the list is your driving license. We recommend that you apply for a REAL-id compliant license. From May 2023, travelers will need this form of license as identification for domestic air travel, so it is well worth getting it now. You’ll need that new Social Security card, your current license, some form of proof of address, and, yes, your marriage certificate to get your new license.
- Your state might need you to also update your vehicle title and registration documents – most do. Check out requirements with your local DMV, as they do vary. Make a careful note of the documents you need to provide. If you lease your vehicle, you need to inform the company that you lease it from of your new status and name.
- Now is the time to change that passport. You can’t change your passport until you’ve changed your Social Security Card – it’s one of the dominoes that depend on that. There are different forms to complete depending on whether your passport is less than a year old (DS-5504), more than a year old (DS-82), or if it expired over five years ago when you need a form DS-11. (Don’t you just love forms? We hope so!) the cost can be up to $325, so remember to budget for this – name change is not entirely cost-free.
- Update your voter registration. This is very important whatever your politics – your voice should be heard! Again, rules vary from state to state and are very dynamic at the moment. You can find all the information that you need by going to vote.gov.
- You will probably want to update your name with the US Postal Service. This isn’t entirely necessary, and so you might want to do this at a later date when you aren’t so busy, but it does make for ease and accuracy of delivery. Let’s help our postal service do a good job!
- Now is the time to update your bank accounts and debit cards. This will probably involve a visit to a branch, and you will want to get new cards and perhaps printed checks – although many of us abandoned checks some time ago. You might want to consider setting up a joint account at the same time.
- Next in line is updating your credit cards. This process will differ from card to card and almost always involves a phone call. (American Express allows you to do this totally online, though.)
Now the big, important stuff is done, it’s time for you to inform a whole lot of other people of your brand new name.
- Your employer needs to know your new name and status. Being married might allow you access to increased benefits in some companies, such as extra time off.
- Professional associations need to know your new name and may issue you with a new license or id to reflect the change.
- Mortgage companies and landlords need to have that new information for their records, as do insurance companies – health, property, vehicle, travel, renters, and more.
- Your doctor and health care professionals should be informed.
- If you are a member of the TSA Global Entry Program, they are going to need to be informed
- Memberships – gym, golf club, library, AAA, church, need to be updated
- If you have kids at school, the school authorities should be informed. You might also need to update the names of people authorized to, for example, collect your children from school at the same time.
- Cellphone, internet, TV, and cable agreements should be updated.
- Online services such as email accounts
- Friends and relatives will probably get informed casually, but you might want to send a cute little note to your nearest and dearest so they can address you by your brand new name!
Changing Your Name FAQ
Yes, you can, but be absolutely sure that all tickets and travel arrangements are booked in your maiden name – or you will be repurchasing airline tickets, even if you brought your marriage certificate with you.
Generally speaking, the answer is yes, but there is no hard and fast rule. Your bank will want to know about your new status, as there are legal implications relating to loans, overdrafts, and credit cards that differ between single and married people.
Social Security imposes a two-year deadline for name changes. Other than that, there is no real deadline, but expect it to cost more if you leave name changing for a long time.
These days, women do have the choice. Given the complication of our lives, it may be that taking our husband’s surname officially is just a lot more trouble than it’s worth. But if you decide to go ahead, our checklist will make sure that you have all of your bases covered and make it as painless as humanly possible.