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How to Change Your Name After Marriage

Changing My Name After Marriage in the United States

In the United States, most newlyweds opt to change their names after marriage by relinquishing their own, adopting their partner's last name, or hyphenating both names. Couples typically take this decision for a variety of personal, legal, or cultural purposes. Whatever the case, all name changes must be reflected on the federal identity database to be deemed official and binding. Hence, those interested in a name change after marriage must inform relevant agencies of their new name through the proper administrative and legal process.

In most cases, persons requesting a marriage-related name change will be required to present a certified copy of their marriage certificate and other supporting documents. Requestors can obtain this document from a court clerk or their state's Department of Health (for states that have this option). A certified marriage certificate will help the applicant update their information on other identifying documents. In the U.S. marriage certificates are considered a subset of marriage records along with marriage licenses. These records are deemed public information per state law; hence, interested members of the public can request them from local repositories or relevant court custodians.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage in the United States

In the United States, the name change process varies depending on the state. However, the steps are similar across the different states. The process is as follows:

  • Getting a marriage certificate or court order
  • Informing the Social Security Administration
  • Notifying the US Department of State for passport and travel document update
  • Obtaining a new driver's license
  • Obtaining a new state-issued identification
  • Updating employers information
  • Updating information with other government agencies
  • Notifying their financial institutions (to update bank account information, names on checkbooks, credit cards, and debit cards)
  • Informing all utility service providers (e.g., electricity, water, etc.)

Newlyweds who intend to change their name after marriage are advised to seek information about the processes required for different state and federal government agencies. Alternatively, they may opt to contact a family law attorney for assistance with the name change process. The lawyer can help to simplify the process and guide the applicant or act on their behalf.

How to Update Your Social Security Card in the United States

The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows individuals to update their Social Security card information on different legal grounds (including marriage). This service is free, and the SSA accepts mail and in-person requests (online applications are unavailable). The process for updating your name on your social security card after marriage is as follows:

  • Prepare the relevant documents

Applicants are typically required to provide documentation showing their new name and reason for the change. One of such documents is their certified marriage certificate or court order. The applicant should also provide a government-issued ID (e.g., driver's license and passport). This identification must show the applicant's former name as it appears in their Social Security records. The SSA only accepts original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency. Photocopied documents are unacceptable (even if they were notarized). Generally, it is advisable for any applicant using their driver's license to obtain a certified copy from their state's Department of Motor Vehicles (rather than send their original document)

  • Complete the application form

Applicants must download and complete the Social Security card application form. On the form, the applicant must provide their full name (former and new), birth information (date and place), race, ethnicity, citizenship, and gender. They must also provide their contact information (phone numbers and mailing addresses), their parent's names and social security numbers (if known), and sign the form correctly.

  • Mail the application

After completing the application form and preparing the required documents, the applicant must mail it to the nearest Social Security office. To find the closest SSA office, the applicant needs their zip code. Note, the documents must be enclosed in self-addressed stamped envelopes. Applicants can read the SSA's pamphlet for more information about the application process. They can also call the SSA's national helpline at 1 (800) 1213-772 (toll-free) or 1 (800) 0778-325 (TTY).

  • Receive the new SSA card

Typically, the Social Security Administration processes card requests within two (2) to four (4) weeks after an applicant submits all the vital information. The mailing logistics and administrative workload can affect the duration. Hence persons interested in updating their SSA card data must commence without delay. The SSA returns applicants' original documents along with their new SSA cards in the same mail.

On the other hand, a person submitting an in-person application must visit an SSA field office to submit all the required documentation. Submitting in-person applications helps applicants avoid losing original sensitive documents (e.g., passports or driver's licenses) in the mail.

How to Get a New Driver's License

Driver's licenses are vital documents that must contain a bearer's current data. Hence, persons who change their names after marriage must obtain new driver's licenses. In the United States, the federal government does not issue driver's licenses. Individual states are responsible for administering the licenses. Therefore, persons interested in updating their driver's license information after marriage must visit their state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Each state has peculiar requirements for issuing new driver's licenses. However, some general conditions apply across different states. For instance, an applicant will need their existing driver's license, updated social security card, and marriage certificate (or court order) before initiating the process. DMV offices may require additional documentation like residency documents and certified copies of birth certificates. The following steps usually apply when a getting a new driver's license in the United States after marriage:

  • Creating a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) account with the state
  • Getting a social security number
  • Filling the DMV online application
  • Paying the applicable fees
  • Submitting the request
  • Visiting the local DMV to conclude the application process

However, most DMV offices provide on-site options allowing applicants to schedule physical appointments (if they cannot use the online platform). An in-person applicant must also provide valid identification, a certified marriage certificate (or court order), and other identifying information. The applicant must also complete a paper application form and pay the applicable fee in the manner described by their DMV office. Typically applications for new driver's licenses in the United States take between two (2) to four weeks (4) to process. However, each state DMV has its processing time (usually stated on their official website). An interested person can call their local DMV offices on their official line for more inquiries. It is advisable to start the application process as soon as possible to avoid delays in getting the new card.

How to Update Your Insurance Information in the United States

The Federal Insurance Office (FIO) is the national agency monitoring the US insurance sector. It oversees the various insurance types US residents enlist for. Some of them are:

  • Health insurance - This insurance covers all or part of a beneficiary's medical expenses. Generally, US residents enroll for either private insurance or social insurance (provided by the government).

  • Auto insurance - This provides financial protection to beneficiaries in case of auto (car) accidents. Auto insurance can provide property coverage (against car theft or damage), medicare coverage (rehabilitation, injury, or funeral expenses), or liability coverage (property or physical harm to others) arising from car incidents.

  • Life Insurance - This guarantees a policyholder that their family will receive money (periodically or in bulk) from the provider if the policyholder dies.

  • Gap insurance - It covers the excess amount on a policy holder's car loan (if their car insurance does not cover the entire loan). People usually opt for gap insurance when they have high car loan interests, long car loan terms (over 60 months), or when they make menial down payments for their cars (typically less than 20%).

  • Disability Insurance - A disability insurance beneficiary can get benefits if a health condition (illness or injury) prevents them from working. Typically, persons with high-risk jobs (e.g., construction site workers) pay higher premiums than those in lower-risk careers (e.g., cashiers).

  • Property insurance - It protects a beneficiary against property risks in the event of theft, fire incidents, or natural disasters (e.g., earthquake, flood, etc.). Property insurance may come as the actual cash value of the protected property or cover the replacement cost.

  • Liability insurance - This insures a beneficiary against legal claims due to property or injury to other persons. Liability insurance differs from other policies as it covers other people (third parties) and not the policyholder. Usually, this type of insurance is used by professionals (e.g., lawyers and healthcare personnel) in their line of work and car owners (in case of car incidents resulting in property damage or injury to other individuals).

  • Credit insurance - Credit insurance helps a borrower repay a loan (either partly or wholly) when they are insolvent (e.g., disabled or dead). Even though a beneficiary pays for the insurance, the benefit will be given to another party. Some financial institutions require credit insurance before providing loans to their customers.

  • Income protection insurance - This insurance is sometimes called permanent health insurance. It guarantees a beneficiary of getting regular income if they cannot work (usually due to an illness or disability). Although income protection insurance may not cover the total amount a beneficiary earned while working, it covers most of it (sometimes over 50%). A beneficiary usually starts receiving benefits about four (4) weeks after they stop working (although it may take longer).

  • Casualty insurance - This provides benefits to policyholders if a casualty occurs. Unlike other insurance types, its coverage spectrum is unlimited. For example, a beneficiary can receive benefits in the event of liability (damage to other persons), car incident, or property loss.

  • Burial insurance - Burial insurance covers funeral expenses for a beneficiary or their family member after death. Typically, the benefits differ depending on the beneficiary's age - younger persons often qualify for higher benefits than older people.

Persons who changed their names after marriage must update their records with their respective insurance providers to access their policy benefits. Typically, insurance providers issue "change of status forms" for the interested party to complete and submit. However, the applicant must provide documentation legally verifying their name change and official identification (containing the new name). For instance, a United States resident under the federal health insurance cover - Medicare, can update their marital status and name change by visiting a Social Security field office or calling the SSA at 1 (800) 1213-772 (toll-free) or 1 (800) 0778-325 (TTY) for assistance. An individual can access this service even if they are not enlisted for social security benefits.

Whatever the insurance type, an individual should contact their insurance provider for inquiries. Insurance companies usually have time limits for updating data after marriage - usually within sixty (60) days after the marriage. Hence, it is advisable for persons to update their insurance information or extend coverage to their spouses as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Where Do I Go to Change My Last Name in the United States?

In the United States, name changes are typically processed in courts. Although different states have peculiar guidelines, name change generally involves filing petitions with the state's court. The petition must be filed with a County Superior Court (e.g., California and North Carolina). Other states accept name change petitions in family courts (e.g., South Carolina), probation courts (e.g., Maine), district courts (e.g., Iowa), chancery courts (e.g., Florida), etc.

Generally, a person who wishes to change their last name after marriage should visit the appropriate court and submit a petition. The following process usually applies:

  • Filling court forms - Most courts offer online forms for interested persons to download (from the court's official website) and complete. Submission is usually via mail or in-person. Depending on the state, applicants may need to complete additional documentation in the process.

  • Submit paperwork for review - An applicant should present their application paperwork to a law facilitator for review to ensure it is properly completed.

  • Make copies of all the forms - An applicant will need to make two copies of each document.

  • Pay the applicable filing fee and submit the forms to the court's clerk for stamping. The fee differs depending on the state. However, most courts allow indigent persons to apply for waivers (but they must prove significant financial need).

  • Publish the court order (showing the name change) in a newspaper. Courts usually provide lists of general circulation newspapers that have been approved for legal notice publishing. The cost for publication varies depending on the media house. Therefore, an interested person should research properly before deciding.

  • Obtain the name change decree from the court - A court judge usually issues this decree after an applicant fulfills all the requirements. Requestors are advised to obtain a certified copy of this decree from the Court Clerk's office. An applicant can use their certified decree to change their names on other identification documents.

How to Update Information with the United States Mortgage and Utility Companies

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the federal agency responsible for real estate in the United States. State governments also have regulatory agencies for real estate. Each of them has peculiar requirements for the name change on real estate or mortgage property after marriage. However, most states have similar requirements for the name change. The typical steps are as follows:

  • Obtain a certified copy of the marriage certificate or a certified Change of Name Decree
  • Contact the mortgage company to inquire about their name change process and requirements.
  • Fill a grant deed containing the new name (as the grantee) and the old name (as the (grantor). It is essential to describe the property (as it appears on the original title) - including a map, address of the property.
  • Compile all the documents and enclose them in a mail to the mortgage provider or submit them in person (depending on the method they choose).
  • Get the grant deed notarized.
  • Submit the notarized grant deed and a copy of the Decree Changing Name form at the local county assessor's office.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates utility companies (including natural gas, electricity, and oil) in the United States. However, individual states have public service commissions that regulate utility at municipal and state levels. The various utility companies (public and private-owned) enable residents' access to communication, transportation, water, sewer, and water services. A person interested in updating their billing information with a utility provider should call the company's official line and make inquiries.

Usually, utility companies allow customers to effect name changes over the phone. However, many companies offer online services. Customers can access their account settings on the dashboards of their utility providers' websites and complete the forms. They must also attach documentation proving their name change and showing reasons for the change (court decree or certified marriage certificate and any other government-issued identification). Alternatively, a requester can apply via mail by downloading and completing the form and preparing copies of all required documents. The documents should be enclosed in an envelope and sent via mail to the utility company.

What Documents Do I Need to Change My Name after Marriage?

Anyone in the United States interested in changing their names after marriage must have the following documents:

  • Certified marriage certificate
  • Social security card (containing the new name)
  • Driver's license or any other ID card issued by the applicant's state of residence
  • All identification documents in their possession (including the person's birth certificate) containing the old name

How to Get Certified Copies of Your Marriage License in the United States?

In the United States, persons can certify their marriage licenses at the state courts. Hence, the processes may differ between states. However, interested persons must visit their local county clerk's office (usually where the marriage took place) to get certified copies of their marriage licenses. Worthy of note, a court can only issue a certified marriage license to persons named on the document (the couple). An interested person should take the following steps:

  • Visit the local county clerk's office (where the license was issued)
  • Obtain an application form - Most courts make the forms available online and on-site (at the court clerk's office)
  • Pay the application fee - Typically, US courts accept payments through money orders and certified checks.
  • Mail the request to the court clerk's office - Interested persons usually have to enclose their request forms in self-addressed stamped envelopes. Alternatively, applicants can submit their application forms in person.
  • Receive the requested document from the court clerk's office. US courts usually have different processing times. An applicant should find out the appropriate processing time for their local court.

Alternatively, some states allow other agencies like the state's Department of Public Health to issue certified marriage licenses (e.g., California). Therefore, people can find out if their state offers this option before applying.

How to Change Your Name After Marriage

A reliable alternative for obtaining vital records are third party websites. These are non-governmental aggregate sites that process record requests in a seamless, timely manner. While obtaining records from third-party sources is substantially easier than sourcing them from government-run repositories, the records and information contained in these sites may vary since they are privately-owned and independent of government sources.

How to Get a New Passport in the United States

United States residents can obtain new passports and renew them at the US Department of State. The Department of State provides information on passport application guidelines and instructions for US passport name change. Basically, the steps for obtaining new US passports are as follows:

  • Complete the application form: The Department makes these forms available online. An interested person can download and fill the PDF form. Alternatively, they can fill them online using the Form Filler tool provided. However, this tool is only for applications made within the United States or Canada (via mail). An individual applying from any location outside the US or Canada is advised to contact the United States embassy or consulate in the country they reside.

  • Prepare and attach their old US passport.

  • Obtain a certified marriage certificate (or court decree).

  • Attach a passport photograph: An applicant should submit one recent (taken within the last six months) color photograph. The photo must be clear (not edited with social media filters) and captured by someone else (not selfies). Pictures must show the applicant's full face (no hats or sunglasses) and must have a white (or off-white) background.

  • Enclose all documents in a self-addressed, stamped envelope

  • Mail the application form with the required attachments (via US Postal Service, FedEx, DHL, or UPS)

The processing time for this request takes between ten (10) to twelve (12) weeks. However, applicants can expedite the application process if they qualify. Typically, a person qualifies for an application expedition if they have to travel for a life-or-death emergency or an urgent international trip within three (3) business days. Nonetheless, the decision is left to the Department.

The Department sends new passports to applicants along with their old ones (with holes punched through). When persons are awaiting their new passports, they can use their Social Security cards, any valid (state-issued) identification, or their Permanent Account Number (PAN) card as travel documents. This alternative only applies to domestic trips (within the United States), closed-loop cruises, and trips to Mexico and Canada. However, individuals traveling outside the US without their passports should carry certified copies of their birth certificates. This document can serve as citizenship proof when returning to the country.

How to Change your Name on Bank Accounts in the United States

To update a bank account name after marriage, an interested person needs to provide documents proving their name change and the reason for the change. The documents are helpful in updating financial details like checkbooks, debit cards, credit cards, retirement accounts, and other bank account details. Typically financial institutions require applicants' new driver's licenses and Social Security cards, and certified marriage certificates to initiate the process. Changing bank account information after marriage involves:

  • Visiting the financial institution's local branch or calling their official phone numbers
  • Talking to a customer service representative about the name change intention.

Usually, a bank instructs the requester to write a letter (addressed to the local branch) requesting the name change or provides a form to the applicant. Interested persons must also request new debit cards and credit cards containing their updated information. Banks usually inform requesters about how long their request process will take.

After the account name change takes effect, an individual must alert their employer about the name change. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires an employee with a name change to complete a new Form W-4. This updates the requester's federal tax income withholding information, preventing possible delays in the employee's taxpayer refund (if they qualify). The IRS lists other implications of a name change on tax returns.

Furthermore, an individual is required to change their name with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Hence, they should complete a new Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification form). In Section 1 of the form, they must provide their personal information (e.g., full name, address, Social Security Number, and birth information). They must also provide their original employment date and other employment information (Section 2). The applicant must attach their old Form I-9, supporting documents (certified marriage certificate or court decree), and explain the reason for the change (in writing). Unlike the employee information update with the Internal Revenue Service, employment re-verification with the UCIS is not a statutory requirement. An applicant can call 1 (888) 7781-897 (employee hotline) or 1 (888) 4218-464 (employer hotline) to make inquiries. They can also make inquiries via email.

In addition, some US states adopted the community property system. This system allows couples to enter community property trusts (agreements) after marriage automatically (e.g., California, Arizona, and Louisiana) or by choice (e.g., Alaska). In this system, any real or financial asset acquired by either spouse during the marriage is considered community property. Hence, both parties are entitled to own half (50%) of the marital asset (e.g., California ) or in any portion considered equitable to each spouse (e.g., Texas). Therefore, in case of marriage annulment, an authorized spouse can submit their partner's bank details for automatic debt repayment. This only applies if one partner dies, if the couple (in the community property agreement) gets divorced or moves to a different state where common-law applies.

In addition, persons who changed their names after marriage and updated their financial information should provide their new banking and credit card details to their utility providers. They should review their bank statements to spot automatic utility deductions and identify the company. Then, they must call the service providers on their official lines to inform them about the changes and determine how to update their billing information. Most providers offer this service online. Alternatively, an applicant can visit their local office person to effect the change.

How Long Does it Take to Change Your Name in the United States After Marriage?

In the United States, the processing time for name change after marriage varies depending on the state, individual, and other factors. This is because most of the process involved at different stages of the update is done at the state (and county) level. For instance, a person must apply for a name change court order and a certified marriage certificate at their local court. Although each court has a different processing duration, it takes between eight (8) to ten (10) weeks to complete the process in most states.

Also, other state government agencies (e.g., the Department of Motor Vehicles) require time to update name changes. Since most documents are submitted via mail, one may not account for all the possible logistics factors that could ultimately affect the processing time.

How Long Does it Take to Change Your Name in the United States?

In the United States, a person can legally change their names on marriage grounds when they obtain their Decree Changing Name (from a court). After an applicant is successful in updating their name change with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and obtains a new SSA card, their name change begins to take effect - the new name appears on government databases. The length of time for the name change is peculiar to each state. However, it could take several months for interested persons to completely change their names in the US after marriage.

Regardless of the state, It is advisable to initiate the name change process as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary delays. An interested person can also hire a reliable, independent service provider or a family law attorney to help with the application. Even if applicants decide to apply themselves, they must consider the financial implications of changing their names and draw a budget after researching their state's requirements.