How to Change Your Name: Laws & Process

Instructor: Rachelle Fobbs

Rachelle has a MS in Forensic Science. She has extensive crime lab experience which includes training and testimony as an expert witness.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to legally change your name as a U.S. citizen and discover all the required documents you'll need. Learn how to get a new social security card and driver's license as well as how to change your name on your other accounts.

Changing Your Name Using Court Documents

Whether you're recently married, divorced, or decide to go by a different name for any other reason, changing your name can seem overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Once you have the required documents and know where to go first, it shouldn't be a stressful task. Although each state dictates its name change laws, the general process for U.S. citizens is typically the same.

First and foremost, you will generally need a copy of your marriage license, divorce document, or court order that proves your name has changed. Get a certified copy from the courthouse where the paperwork was filed and you're good to go.

Updating Your Social Security Card

The first document you need to change is your social security card. You'll need your current social security card with your old name and a copy of your name change document. Visit the Social Security website to find the office closest to you and make an appointment if possible to speed up the process. You can also complete an application for a new card, found on the website, and mail in all the required documents. There is no fee to change your name on your social security card.

First, you will need to submit your name change with the Social Security Administration
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Your social security number will stay the same, but you will be issued a new card with your new last name on it. If you go to the Social Security office, they will most likely take your old card and give you a receipt with your new name. You'll receive your new card in the mail in a few days. FYI - if you visit the Social Security office, the receipt they give you can be used at the DMV. However, if you submit the documents by mail, you'll need to wait to receive your new card before going to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Updating Your Driver's License and Vehicle Registration

Once you've changed your name on your social security card, you can get a new driver's license. Take your current license and your updated social security card (or the receipt you were given) to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You will be issued a new driver's license with your updated name, and you will most likely have to pay a license replacement fee, which varies by state. Again, check the website for your local DMV for the exact fee amount and to make an appointment. It's also a good idea to take a copy of your name change paperwork, as some states may require additional documentation.

While you're at the DMV, you can change the name on your vehicle registration and title, if applicable. There is usually a fee for a replacement registration or title as well.

Other Documents and Accounts to Update

Next, visit the bank and change your name on any accounts you have there. Some banks only require you to show your new driver's license or social security card, but some may ask for a copy of your name change paperwork also. You will get replacement debit and credit cards mailed to you with your new name, and you can order checks to reflect the name change as well. There is no fee for changing your information at the bank.

Now that you have changed your name with the Social Security office, DMV, and the bank, you can easily change it everywhere else. Update all the information with your employer to ensure your payroll and retirement accounts have your new name. Notify your mortgage or rental company of the name change to make sure it matches your bank information.

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