How much hassle is involved in a change of name?
April 26, 2021 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Partner has been using ex's last name... wants to make it a middle and take mine for the last name. How much administrative follow up will be involved?

Will financial accounts need to be altered? Credit cards? Drivers license? Passport? Property deeds? And... what concerns us the most... there is a lot of medical intervention at the moment from a number of health care providers.

Since the new name will contain the old one, can partner simply leave all the above alone, or will that end up causing confusion down the road?

We would like to merge our identities this way, but I don't think we're going to have the energy at the moment if a lot of follow up will be required.
posted by elf27 to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
What country are you in?
posted by hoyland at 4:35 PM on April 26

In the US this can be different at the state and county levels as well. If you're in the US, you should check your state's website - this information should be generally available as lots of people change their names.

There will be a certain amount of hassle. A change of last name is significant, and will require a legal change that then affects every legal undertaking you're involved in. Yes, when the name attached to your personal identification (generally social security number, passport number, and driver license or state ID) changes, you have to change that with your financial accounts (otherwise you'll never be able to prove who you are in the future, and you'd have to use your old name, whatever's on your ID, to fly or cash a check or do anything that requires showing ID). If you have insurance involved in those health care activities you will likely run into trouble eventually if you don't true up your identification with those accounts.

It is possible (in the US, again) to use a name strictly socially that is not the name on your legal documentation, if you'd rather do that for now. My husband did that professionally for a while, but his profession is almost entirely freelance and it was a huge hassle getting a) a check in the right name b) that the bank would take, so he went ahead with the whole legal ordeal. But in some legal quadrants using an alias treads a fine line between just an alternate name and a fake name intended to defraud or avoid financial/legal consequences, so especially if you are a member of a marginalized group you may not want to risk that close scrutiny by police or financial entities.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:01 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]

I changed my first name a few years ago. Weirdly, back in the dark ages, when it was time to get a social security card, all I had to do was tell them my name ... they didn't even require identification! So, being a naive 16-year-old, I gave them my nick-name, which is quite different than the first name that is on my birth certificate. Many years later, it was time to get a passport, so I had to legally change my first name on everything in order match my birth certificate (hard to get a passport when your social security card has a different first name on it than your birth certificate). Because of my particular circumstances, I didn't have to get a court order to have my name changed ... I just had to show my birth certificate.

Here is a list of my changes:
Social Security Office (had to go in person twice, and wait and wait)
Dept of Motor Motor Vehicles (for drivers license)
Courthouse for car title and registration, and voter registration
Bank for credit card, checking account, savings account
Insurance company for car insurance
My employer for W2 form, 401k, health insurance, life insurance, employee pension
Vanguard for Roth IRA
Utility companies (electric, gas, water and garbage, telephone, cell phone, internet)
Doctor and dentist
Name on trust account for disabled sister (I am a trustee)

Some of the above-mentioned places required name change request forms (which they provided) to be filled out and faxed to them.

Some quirky things happened. Like, the phone company messed up and, rather than just changing my name, they closed my account and opened a brand new account, and charged me extra for doing so, when they should have just changed my name in their record at no charge. It took several attempts on my part to get them to correct it and give me my money back. Another weird thing was that my bank changed my name, but I later (about a year later!) discovered, purely by accident, that direct payments from my checking account to pay bills were still going to businesses in my old name. I called my bank to find out why, and I was told there was a third party I needed to contact in order to change my name for direct payments ... for some reason they had never bothered to tell me this.

I still have PTSD from it all (not literally, but you know what I mean) - but it was worth it to me in the end.
posted by SageTrail at 6:03 PM on April 26 [1 favorite]

This depends on your state, but in my experience yes, you will have to change most things. But not everything.

In my case, I added one last name to my existing name at marriage. There are some things that, in eight years, I have not bothered to change but they are mostly minor - library card, grocery loyalty cards, pharmacy account, etc. So it's not everything.

But (assuming you are in the US) anything that interacts with your identity in an official manner, such as financial accounts, health insurance, and every state and federal agency such as the DMV and Social Security - these will have to be changed. You must have a driver's license that matches your SSN and anything that reports to the IRS will need to be in your full legal name. Depending on the complexity of your life, that can be a lot.

That said, the emotional baggage of using the wrong name can be just as much of a hassle and you'll be doing that forever - not just once. So, weigh your options.
posted by epanalepsis at 6:14 PM on April 26

I legally changed my last name when I got married five years ago, and went through the hassle (it is definitely a hassle) of getting it updated most places within the first 2 months or so. But there are some places where it was such a hassle I didn’t bother - Vanguard, for example, wanted me to mail them my original marriage certificate (not a copy!), which I wasn’t willing to do. Fast-forward 5 years, I have my previous employer’s 401k to roll into my IRA...which I couldn’t do, because the 401k had my new last name and the IRA had my former last name. Fortunately the process was easier now, and a scan of my marriage license sufficed - but I expect I’ll be finding one-offs like that for a long time, especially since I didn’t get married until I was 38 and therefore have a lifetime of history attached to that old name.

All of that said...yes it was a pain, but I’m absolutely glad I did it.
posted by okayokayigive at 3:58 AM on April 27

If you're in the US, this is a service that purports to make name changes easier by providing you with prefilled forms and checklists. I have no personal experience - just something I got a lot of targeted ads for after I got married.
posted by mosst at 6:50 AM on April 27

When I got married, I made a list from one of the websites about everywhere to get my name changed. First, social security. Then drivers license/state ID (need social security done first in my state). Everything else required one of those IDs to be updated first - work, credit cards, bank accounts, doctors offices, hair salons, etc. etc. I still haven't changed my passport so that is still legally in my maiden name, and if I travel internationally (ha) will need to book flights in my maiden name. This is a pretty comprehensive list. I found it helpful to make a list of every place I needed to change it, since it was a long process.

For the medical - it was a relatively simple update in the system, but the majority of my health care providers are within one system and keep records electronically.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:22 PM on April 27

I will add a little note from my husband's experience versus a marriage-related name change: in many states, an executed marriage license (or certificate, whatever your state does to make you for-real married) will act as the "court order" that is otherwise required for a name change, which saves you several irritating steps.

But if you're just changing it to some other name or there is no legal marriage certification, you will likely have to have some kind of date with a judge to get a court decree of some sort, and a lot of states require you to publish the intention to change your name in a newspaper - which is weird and archaic but California still does it so I'm guessing many other states do too - in advance for so many days, to create a paper trail. (This can be done online and there are websites out there pointing you to the cheapest newspapers for this purpose.) All of this is to prevent someone changing their name seamlessly to avoid some kind of legal or financial obligation.

So if you are legally married, this may be made easier on some steps. If you plan to marry at some point, I'd wait until then to streamline the process. Otherwise expect slightly more friction than the experience most people have changing names at marriage.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:32 PM on April 27

« Older What is in this wine(ry), Paso Robles edition?   |   Name that aesthetic: 80s-90s edgy pastel collage-y... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments