I was very confused about the name change process after I got married in June 2020. When people told me it was a pain, I didn’t believe them. I thought I’m really good at paperwork and organization, so it’ll be different for me. This article covers how to legally change your last name after marriage.
Well, Covid hit, everything was closed as we all know. For some reason, I didn’t about the name change process when I got married. I was too busy planning my destination Moab wedding. Anyway, what should have taken maybe a few months at the most has been frustratingly drawn out to six months and counting.
This process has made me realize how defined I am by my name. I knew that I wanted to have the same name as my husband and daughter. So, for me, going through this process is necessary and important.
I cover what is truly necessary at the beginning of the legal name change process, the building blocks if you will. Once you change your social security card and driver’s license, the name change process becomes a lot easier.
Even if you think you are completely finished and your life is seemingly running smoothly with your new last name, things still pop up. So, I cover some of those areas as well.
So, here is how to legally change your last name after marriage.
The legal part of how to legally change your last name after marriage
The marriage license or marriage certificate, depending on the state, is the legal document that changes your last name. It is akin to a court order or a divorce decree, which are both legal name change documents.
Since you need this document to start the name change process, it’s a good idea to get extra certified copies. This can be done at the Court Clerk’s office in the county that issued the original license.
The most important first steps of how to legally change your last name after marriage
If you decide to change your last name after marriage, just remember that it can be a large undertaking but can be broken down into easy, manageable steps. The important thing is to just start and keep working on it as you have time.
Keep in mind that some governmental agencies have statutory limits on marriage licenses. For example, the Social Security Administration will accept marriage licenses up to two years old.
The most important documents to update are your social security card and driver’s license. These should be done first. When you are requesting to change your name with any business entity, organization, or institution, they will all invariably ask for some combination of the marriage license, the new social security card, or the new driver’s license.
Social security card
To change your name on a social security card, you will need to fill out form SS-5. It’s easily accessible on the Social Security website.
Normally, you can walk into your local social security office with your documents and fill out the form. Since my local office was closed due to Covid precautions, I had to mail in my form along with an original copy of my marriage license and a copy of my driver’s license.
I wrote a note with my packet and requested the return of my original marriage license. They mailed the original copy back to me within a couple of weeks. After that, my new social security card came in the mail.
The process is not painful at all and takes approximately 3-4 weeks. There is no fee.
This most likely varies from state to state. In New Mexico, you need the original copy of your marriage license and your valid driver’s license.
The Motor Vehicle Division took my old license and issued me a temporary paper license, which was valid until the real one came in the mail. I paid the normal driver’s license fee of $18 and the license came in the mail 2-3 weeks later.
This process was drawn out due to Covid. New Mexico is requiring individuals to make MVD appointments. Since nearby locations were booked 3-4 months out, I found an earlier appointment in a small town two hours south. The lengths we go to get this done, right?
Next steps of how to legally change your last name after marriage
With your new social security card and driver’s license, the next step is changing your name with work, financial institutions, and membership organizations.
Changing my name with work was a months-long process because I work for a large state government agency with lots of employees. I made my original request with HR and they sent out work orders to different departments like IT, training, and state health benefits.
I also updated my name with the company who runs the state’s flex spending benefits and the state retirement board.
State Bar and Supreme Court for Attorneys
In order to change my name with the New Mexico State Bar, I requested a formal name change from the Supreme Court. Once the Supreme Court issues an Order changing a name on the Roll of Attorneys, the State Bar can issue a new State Bar card. The State Bar also publishes notice of the new name. This entire process takes a couple of months.
Banking & Financial Institutions
My credit union is amazing. I made an appointment with them and they processed everything in one hour. This included changing my name on my account, setting up a joint account for me and my husband, and issuing brand new debit cards with my new name. They also ordered new checks for me.
If you have credit cards, investment accounts, or a 529 account, these financial institutions require a copy of the marriage license to change your name. I found that most financial institutions can process name changes fairly quickly.
For my mortgage company, I called customer service and asked how to change my name. I sent in all of the required documents by mail and my legal name was updated within a week. I also updated my name with my home insurance company. Additionally, the mortgage company wanted my name to match my county tax statements for the escrow.
In order to update my county tax bills to my new name, I had to update the deed to my house. I also wanted to add my husband to the deed. Initially, I called the original title company to see if they could do the paperwork for me, but they referred me to an attorney.
Instead of paying an attorney, I did some research and prepared the documents myself. I basically deeded the house from myself to me and my husband. Once notarized, I filed it with the County Clerk’s Office. There was a $25 fee.
If you are not comfortable preparing these documents on your own, you can call your local title company or an attorney.
Last steps of how to legally change your last name after marriage
Once the major items are checked off the list, there are still other items to tackle. More things came up, it’s crazy how we are so defined by our names. These are the items in no particular order.
- House Utilities. Electric, gas, water, and trash accounts.
- Car Insurance. Or other insurance accounts.
- Cell phone and cable companies.
- Shopping accounts. Everything from Amazon to Macy’s to Target.
- Subscriptions. Accounts like Hulu and Netflix.
- E-mail accounts. My main Gmail account has my maiden name in the email address. I created a new Gmail address but I’m keeping the old one as well.
Most of these require a simple phone call to customer service. Occasionally, I would have to send in a copy of my marriage license or driver’s license. For larger companies, expect longer hold times for customer service.
There are a couple of other name-change steps I need to finish. A big one is my passport. We don’t have international travel plans in the near future, so I felt that I could hold off on this. I know it requires a form and the cost is over $100. It’s definitely on the list to complete in 2021 though.
I hope this article helps in your journey to legally change your last name after marriage. I definitely underestimated how long this process would take and how time-consuming it would be. Even though I’m not completely done, the end is closer in sight.