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How to Legally Change Your Name After Marriage Tuesday, February 15, 2011 ~ 1:24 p.m.

How to change your legal name after marriage or after you get married Now that we are officially hitched and back from our honeymoon, I'm ready to begin the process of changing my last name! I realize that this is a controversial issue for some; I made the personal decision to replace my current last name with my husband's - no hyphenations - for my own personal reasons. I think that each woman should go into it doing what she thinks is right for her and for her relationship, regardless of the politics, or what other people may think. It's YOUR name, after all!

Here is a a simple "How to" guide with a checklist to help you change your last name

The good news is that the steps to changing your last name are the same whether you choose to change your last name entirely or hyphenate! DO keep in mind that you should wait until you're done traveling for the wedding or honeymoon, especially if you're planning to leave the country, before you actually complete and submit the paperwork.

First, make sure that you write down the last name that you want correctly on the "New Names" portion of your marriage license; it makes things much more difficult if the name you now want doesn't match the one that you originally included on the certificate prior to the wedding.

You'll also want to keep in mind that you need an official copy of your marriage license to even begin the name change process. When applying for your marriage license, a state employee should let you know how much time you'll need to wait once you or your officiant has submitted the signed certificate, before you may actually request an official copy of your marriage license. For instance, in the state of California, we were required to wait two months once the license was submitted to ensure that the state had fully processed the paperwork. Once the waiting period is over, you can choose to request a copy via mail for a fee, or go down to your local courthouse to request one in person.

1. Get a new ("Corrected") social security card

Once you have a obtained a copy of your marriage license, know that it is usually best to start with the most important items and work your way down to the less important documents. To request an updated or as the SSA website calls it, a "Corrected" social security card, you'll first want to complete the SS-5 form, which is available to download and print on the federal social security website.

Along with the completed form, you are required to have a few other documents to certify that you are who you say you are. All of the documents that you submit must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. In other words, you can't just go and make a copy of your passport or birth certificate at your local Kinko's. You'll need either a U.S. birth certificate or a U.S. passport to demonstrate your citizenship, as well as a driver's license (or you can use your passport) with your "old" name on it to certify your identity. The ID or passport can be expired, as long as it has a photo and your soon-to-be maiden name on it. Lastly, make sure that you have a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change. This is where you'll need the certified copy of your marriage license with your new name on it.

Once you've completed the form and have all of the necessary documents in order, you can choose to mail in your form and the supplemental documents, unless you live in any of the following areas: the New York City metro area, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Sacramento or the Greater Twin Cities metro area. These areas actually require you to request a new social security card in person at a local Social Security Card Center. While I could have requested my new card through mail, I chose to go down to the social security office and request the card in person. You're always taking a bit of a risk by putting such important documents in the mail, though they assure you that all of your documents will be returned to you safely right away. It was a relatively easy process to request a new card in person! You can find out where to mail/submit your request for a new social security card here.

Your new social security card will have the same identifying number - the name will just be changed!

2. Driver's license or identification card

In most states, the DMV will allow you to change the last name on your ID if you just have a copy of your marriage certificate, but some also require that you have an updated social security card. If you're a California resident, you'll need both, as the DMV must electronically verify your name, birth date and social security number with the Social Security Administration before they'll issue you a new card. If you're in a rush to get your new ID and can't wait the two weeks for it to come in the mail, the social security office will also give you a certified letter asserting that you have legally changed your last name, which the DMV will accept in place of the card.

When you're ready to apply for a new ID, you'll want to make an appointment at your local DMV, where you'll complete the Driver License or Identification Card Application, give a thumb print, take a new picture and pay the application fee. You'll leave with a temporary license and/or a receipt of your ID card until you receive your new photo license in the mail. Just make sure that your mailing address is correct!

3. Voter's Registration

While you're at the DMV, you should also consider updating your voters registration!

4. Visit your employer's Human Resources department

It's extremely important that you notify your employer of your new name. Failing to do so will just cause you problems later on with payroll, taxes, benefits, insurance, and who knows what else. Be sure to also get some updated business cards, if you need them!

5. Head over to the bank

Every bank has a slightly different protocol, but it's generally the same everywhere. Bank of America customers, for instance, are required to bring a government-issued photo ID along with your marriage license to a local banking center. You'll complete the necessary forms, and get you a new debit and/or credit card sporting your new married name!

Keep in mind that you'll want to make sure your new name is updated on any cards and accounts, as well as assets like property titles, deeds, trusts, any loans you may have, and investment accounts that you have if not already through your employer.

6. And all of the rest...

House & Home
Make sure that your home or renter's insurance providers, landlord, home owners association and utility companies are all notified of your new last name.

Medical and Legal Documents
Notify all of your doctors, therapists and counselors, and make sure your new name is correct with your health proxy and on your will (if applicable).

Photo source: Wedding Paper Divas.

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