What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…Or would it? What you need to know about changing your name.
There are several reasons why someone changes his or her name –marriage and divorce being the most common. Times are changing and women aren’t the only one’s changing their name. “It isn’t uncommon to have clients where the husbands take their wives names, both parties hyphenate their names or they combine both of their last names into one new name,” informs Andrea L. Gellen, attorney at SDG Law.
But marriage and divorce are not the only reason people shed their current name. They may: 1. swap a first and middle name, 2. be going through a gender reassignment, 3. no longer want to use a name of an absentee parent, or 4. have never liked the name they were given. Regardless of the circumstance, if you are considering changing your name, here is what you need to know.
In New York State you must be at least 18 years old to change your name otherwise you will need to get permission from your parent(s) or guardian(s). They will also need to make the statutory declaration (not you). However, if you are 16 or over, the declaration must be accompanied by your written consent for the name change.
If you are 18 or older, be aware that changing your name is a multiple-step process. There is no single place you can go to take care of everything. To begin, you will need to file a court petition with the Supreme Court in your county (it must be filled out and signed in front of a Notary Public) and pay the fee to have it processed. If your petition is granted, you will need to publish a legal notice with your new name, apply for a new birth certificate from the department of vital records, update all of your necessary documents and alert everyone who needs to know (checklist below).
If you are getting married or divorced. If you plan to change/hyphenate/combine your last name when you get married, you will not need a court order. Just include your new last name on your marriage license and provide that as proof when making all the necessary arrangements with each agency. If you get divorced the judge can take care of changing your name back to your maiden name during the divorce proceedings and should appear correctly on your Decree of Dissolution.
Remember, every situation is different and state laws can vary, so be sure to remain patient, be organized and do your research ahead of time. You may be tempted to use an online tool or website that claims they can streamline the process, but we recommend working with someone who has experience with this process and can walk you through it.
- Government Agencies:
Social Security Administration, Department of Motor Vehicles (license, ID, voter registration), State department (passport).
- Checking accounts, checks, and bank cards, Savings and money market accounts, CDs
- Credit cards, property titles, deeds, trusts
- Debts such as mortgages and loans
- Investment accounts, including IRAs and 401ks, if not through your employer
- Your place of employment
Whatever the reason is that you are planning a name change, it is a new beginning and likely an exciting time. Try to fight the urge to immediately update your name across the board. You will want to make sure you do it properly to avoid potential errors that may have a lasting impact on future travel plans, a professional license, your finances and your credit. If you are considering a name change, and have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our offices for a consultation.
If you have any questions about the name changing process, or would like more information, contact our offices today.