Sunday, November 29, 2015

Wedding Mini-series Part III: Changing Your Name? Here's the Nitty Gritty on Name Changes

Whew! I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving! I know I did. My shrunken pants tell me so. The holiday season is finally in full swing and retailers are going nuts with the post-Black Friday sales. With tomorrow being Cyber Monday and all, I'm fairly certain I'll be hunched over my Add To Cart button all day, so I wanted to pump out the final phase of my wedding mini-series before my brain is completely fried.

If you're planning on changing your name after getting hitched, hopefully this post can offer a bit of guidance since it's all still fresh in my mind. When I first sought help on name changes, I couldn't find a single resource that told me what to change first, next, etc. I think that was partly because it varies by state and by individual, but it still would have been nice to have a simple guide, even if it just gave me a place to start. That's what I hope you'll get out of this post.

Once the wedding bells stopped ringing, I thought all of that wedding stress was behind me. Man, I was so wrong. As I was sticking return addresses (with my shiny new last name!) on our thank you notes it dawned on me that even though I had legally changed my name, I hadn't really changed it. I started jotting down a list of things that I needed to do a name change on and then got overwhelmed when I filled up an entire sheet of paper and was only halfway done.
After uttering a few expletives, I got back to work on figuring out how I was going to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. It's not like changing your address; you can usually complete an address change from your own computer. Changing your name is a whole 'nother story, and it gets crazier the more accounts/property/etc you have. Once your Dept of Health processes your marriage license they'll issue a marriage certificate with your new name (or same if you chose to keep it). If you changed any part of your name, keep the original doc near you; it will be your best friend for a while. I'd also recommend requesting certified copies just in case you *gasp!* lose the original while toting it around with you all over the place. (But seriously, try not to lose the original; there's only one of those)

Once you have your list of things needing a name change, the next step is prioritizing. What needs to be changed immediately? The answer: the important things. Those include things like bank accounts, loans, and insurance plans. I decided that the not-as-important things such as club memberships, rewards cards, and subscriptions can wait until I need to renew them (or I might not even change them at all). I split my list into sections:
The important stuff
The not-as-important stuff
Keep in mind that your online accounts also have to be updated. Some websites might let you change it directly from your dashboard, but most of the important accounts (bank, insurance) will require verification of name change (more on this later). The Not-As-Important Stuff list was actually waaay longer than the Important Stuff so I just typed in a few items on there to give you an idea of what kind of things I felt could wait. In this post I'm going to focus on the Important Stuff because those are the ones that matter the most.

Driver's License/State ID/Social Security Card
These are the first things you should change after getting your marriage certificate. Head straight to your local social security office and DMV to apply for replacement ID cards (since you need to show up in person to these government offices you might have to take off of work if you have a regular M-F job). Make sure you bring along your original marriage certificate for them to scan into their system. You'll need your new ID for almost all the Important Stuff. Hold on to your old driver's license too; banks might require it to complete your name change on your accounts. Depending on your local offices, replacement cards can take 2-3 weeks to arrive.

Bank Accounts
After you get your new IDs, the order in which you change everything else isn't too important, but I did bank accounts and credit card accounts next. You'll need the original marriage certificate, a current government issued ID, and sometimes your old ID in order to change the name on your bank account. If you have a joint account, all parties must be present because the bank will verify all of your work and contact info. Some banks may be lenient and let each of you come in at your own convenience but all account holders have to show up at one time or another.

Insurance (Medical/Dental/Rx/Vision)
The process for a name change on your insurance policies may vary depending on your situation, but be prepared to send in a xerox copy (as opposed to a certified copy) of your marriage certificate as proof that you changed your name. For example, I'm covered by my employer. Medical/dental/Rx/vision insurance for my company's employees is handled by a middle-man company. I sent them a form via my employer and attached a copy of my marriage certificate and they automatically took care of changing my name with each of my insurance carriers. If anything, you might have to send in a copy of the certificate to each carrier, but you probably won't have to physically go to the insurance office. Good to know: not all carriers automatically send you an updated insurance card reflecting your new name (unless you're changing your policy as well), so you may have to specifically request a replacement if you want one.

Mortgage Loan/Homeowner's Insurance
If you own a home (okay, if the bank still owns it), you'll need to change the name on your mortgage loan. This one's surprisingly simple. All the bank required from me was a signed letter requesting a name change (mine was about two sentences long) along with a xerox copy of my marriage certificate. My loan and homeowner's insurance aren't under the same bank, so my insurance carrier told me that before I could change my name on my insurance policy, they needed to see proof from the lender (such as a letter) confirming a name change has been made to the loan. If you have renter's insurance, I'm not sure what's required for a name change, but I'm pretty sure it'll require a copy of your marriage certificate at the very least. If you know please post in the comments below!

Auto Insurance/Registration
Got a car? Changing the name on your auto insurance policy is also pretty simple. It can be as easy as faxing in a copy of your marriage certificate, but it's a good idea to call just to make sure. Changing your vehicle registration is a bit more difficult (especially if the bank is still the lien holder). First scenario: the vehicle is paid off. Simply take the title down to the DMV, change your name on it (there should be designated blanks on the title for this), pay the fee for a duplicate registration, and wait for the new one to arrive. Second scenario: the bank still owns the vehicle. Give your bank a heads up about changing your name on your auto registration; they'll have to find your title and get it prepared for you. Head over to the bank to sign the title and pay the fee for the new registration (this might be a bit more costly because the bank will most likely also charge a courier fee). The bank will take care of the rest for you and the next thing you know you'll have a new registration mailed to your home.

If you're a jet setter, updating your passport will probably be higher up on your list of things to change. After all, it is your legal form of ID while overseas. But if you don't plan on going outside of country borders for a while, this can wait -- unless you just purchased or renewed your passport within the past year. Name changes for passports issued within the last 12 months are free; otherwise it's $110 and you have until your current expiry date to renew before you have to pay the full first-time fee of $135.

Utilities are probably the easiest to change out of the "important" things. Many utility companies have an online form you can fill out and submit, no proof needed. Others may require a copy of your marriage certificate or new ID. It really varies here, and I'd suggest reading your utility's FAQs about account profile changes.

So there it is. Finally, something to help give you some guidance when deciding where to start on changing your name. Each state and/or company may have slightly different protocols, and the best way to figure out exactly what to do is to browse a site's FAQs or simply call to find out. Most times the customer service rep can help you, or at least transfer you to someone who can. Just be prepared to call in a second time to re-change your name because sometimes they won't get it right on the first crack, especially if you're changing your middle initial also. This has already happened several times for me; I even had three replacement cards from one company because they just couldn't get it right. It can get pretty frustrating but if it's for something important, their records need to show your correct info. Good luck in your name change adventures and congratulations on your new chapter!

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