Changing Your Last Name

6 Oct

Taking a quick break from baking and crafting to share some information that hopefully any newlyweds can use!

I got suckered into paying $29.95 for a name change service when I got married and realized later that there was no actual “service” being given to me.  I just filled out a little information and the site populated most of the info to various forms that already existed that I still had to mail in myself.  They actually didn’t contact/notify ANYONE on your behalf. And there were a TON of other places I needed to change my name with that I didn’t realize until after I paid for the service.  The irritating part is that they don’t tell you any of that until after you pay for the $29.95.

I think the service is great for those that get married young and don’t have a lot of assets, programs, or policies in their name yet (more than one savings, mortgage, lots of different bills, frequent flyer accounts, etc.).  But for a working girl, it is A LOT of work, time, and people to contact, and there is just no way around it.  The process is overwhelming but I’ve written out a little checklist/tutorial here and included links to as many of the required name change forms as possible in this post (including what you’d get in the paid service).  I don’t have exact forms/instructions for everything, but hopefully this list is a solid starting list of things you need to think about.

First thing’s first – get your marriage certificate.  You basically can’t do anything until you have that, about 4-6 weeks from when you mail your signed marriage license.  You will need to mail your license within 10 days of your marriage. Otherwise, you’ll need to bring it in to court and do it in person.  NOTE:  When you go in to order and pay for your marriage license, purchase at least three certified copies of your marriage certificate. You’d be surprised at how many places you need to physically mail it to, and it’s a pain to re-order them later on if you don’t get some of your copies back.

Once you have the marriage certificate in-hand, the first thing you have to do is change your name with social security. Here is the form with address for where to mail it and a certified copy of your marriage certificate included.  I’d recommend mailing it in unless you want to wait HOURS at a social security office.  You can’t make appointments.

About a week after you mail your SS card application, you can notify the IRS. For tax purposes, you’ll need to tell the IRS you’ve changed your last name. At this juncture, you’ll have to figure out if you’re going to file your taxes jointly with your spouse next year or not because you have to indicate that on the form.  You can take both of your incomes and see what makes sense by using this tax bracket chart. Once you figure that out, fill out this form and mail it to the address on the form.

Once your name is changed with social security, you can change your name with:

  • The DMV for your California drivers license.  This will cost you $27, and the DMV only takes cash or check. Make a DMV appointment online to save a ton of time. You’ll need to bring your current drivers license and a certified copy of your marriage certificate. You’ll need to fill out a DL44 form, but this form is not available anywhere online.  The DMV also won’t allow you to mail in the DL44 form for drivers licenses – you have to turn it in to the DMV in person. It takes 2 weeks for the new drivers license to come in the mail, once you turn in the form and show your marriage certificate. Alternatively, you can also call to get the DL44 form mailed to you at 1-800-777-0133, press 1 for English, and say the following when prompted: “Driver’s License”, “Name or Address Changes”, “Name Change”, “Get Forms”.  You will then need to slowly state your zip code and then your full mailing address. You will recieve a blank DL44 form in approximately 10 days. But honestly it’s faster to just fill out the form in person at the DMV since you have to go there anyway. The DMV will punch a hole in your old drivers’ license and issue you a temporary paper drivers license with your new name until the new official drivers license comes in the mail. Hold on to your old drivers license, just in case.
  • U.S. Department of State for a new passport book. You have to pay for it – The passport itself is $110 for non-expedited processing, and I paid another $15ish to have the shipping expedited, just in case. If you aren’t traveling any time soon, you can do this option too, or you can pay an extra $60 for expedited service to get them to produce it faster.  Here is the form with mailing address included, as well as payment instructions.

Once you get your drivers license in the mail, you can go in person to:

  • The DMV (again) to update your car title (if you own your car in full) and car registration. Yes, a second appointment to the DMV.  Fortunately, this won’t cost you anything this time. You have to wait til you get your new drivers license to do this because you have to provide proof that you’re the same person. Fill out ONLY section F on the statement of facts form before you go, and bring it with you to the appointment to speed things up. you’ll also need to bring your current car title. They’ll keep it and give you a temporary registration under your new name. The car title takes 2 weeks to come in the mail.  The DMV will give you a temporary car registration that you can use til it’s time to renew your registration. They won’t mail you a new official one with the sticker.
  • The Bank for your checking/savings account. You can’t change your name on your bank account until you have your new drivers license. They don’t care about the marriage certificate (I tried bringing that) – all they care about is your drivers license.  Only then can you cash checks made out to you with your new last name.  Note that if someone wrote you a wedding gift check made out to “[your spouse] and [you with your new last name]”, your spouse has to be on your bank account too in order to cash it. You can’t add him unless he’s there in person and he has a valid drivers license too.  Order a new debit card while you’re at it if you have one.

Once all that is done, you should alert your employer.  Be sure to tell your:

  • Payroll Specialist.  Let them know that you’ve changed your last name, so they can alert ADP or whoever controls your paycheck or direct deposit output.  I did this right after I changed my last name at the bank, so that there wouldn’t be any payroll confusion if you have direct deposit. I have a feeling it doesn’t matter if the bank account and routing numbers stay the same, but no one likes to take a chance on a bounced paycheck.

IT Department. In addition to getting your email address and email display name changed over, be sure to ask them to set-up email forwarding so that anything sent to your old work email address will auto-forward to the one with your new last name.

  • Facilities Department. Get your new business cards, updated building access and parking garage key card, name badge, etc.
  • HR/Benefits Specialist. If you get your health and/or disability insurance through your employer, talk to this person about changing your last name with your insurance providers. You may need to reach out to them on your own and provide proof of marriage – it’ll likely be different for every company.   Same for your 401k. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) account, you’ll probably need to call the number on the back of your card. But check with your employer first in case they can do it for you.

Speaking of insurance, make sure to connect with all of your insurance agents to get the last name updated on your account:

  • Health Insurance (medical, dental, vision) – if not through work. Once you get your medical ID card, you can probably wait til your next appointment to tell them and also provide your new medical ID card for their records. You can also call your various doctors offices to let them know, but I don’t think that’s necessary.
  • Life Insurance.  Contact your financial advisor to let them know of the change. You’ll also need to change the beneficiary of your policy to your spouse (if that’s what you want to do) where applicable, including retirement savings. Note that at least in California, the default beneficiary is your spouse.
  • Disability Insurance – if not through work.
  • Car Insurance – Just email your agent. Depending on what provider you have, they may need a scanned copy of your new and old drivers licenses. While you’re at it, it might be worth looking into adding your spouse onto your car insurance policy. You may get a small discount for being married (no joke!).
  • Homeowner’s/Renter’s Insurance – contact your agent.

A few other important things to think about:

  • Cell Phone – Sprint is my wireless carrier, and I had to submit a scanned copy of my marriage license online in order to make the change to my account.
  • Mortgage/Rental Agreement – I don’t have a mortgage, so I assume you can just contact your lender. You can just write a letter notifying your landlord if you are renting.
  • Miscellaneous Investments – mutual funds, stocks, IRA, retirement, CDs, etc.   I had to mail a name change form and a photocopy of my marriage certificate to get my IRA changed over.
  • USPS – There is an area on the “change of address” form where you can change your name, even if your address hasn’t changed.  Your mail will be forwarded to your new address (if you have moved) under your new name.
  • Credit Cards – American Express let me change the name via my online account, but I had to upload a scanned copy of the marriage certificate. I then had to call the number on the back of my credit card to ask them to issue a new card. My 2 Visa cards let me do it over the phone with no proof required.  I just called the number on the back of the card to tell them as well.
    • NOTE: Once your new credit cards come in, you’ll need to change anything that is automatically billed to your credit card to the new name too. For example, my Time Warner Cable bill, LADWP, and cell phone bills were all billed directly to my credit card.
  • Prescriptions – You may need to call your doctor to let them know you’ve changed your name and need any recurring prescriptions (birth control, etc.) to be updated with your pharmacy.  Also important so that you don’t get dinged for the discontinuity in your insurance paperwork. Show them your new medical ID card so they can change everything over.
  • Travel Loyalty Programs – You have to change your name with all of your frequent flyer accounts (like Starwood, Hilton, Southwest, Enterprise, etc). You otherwise won’t be able to book or execute travel for yourself under the new last name, because your ID won’t match the name on the account. I’m sure it’s a TSA security issue for the airlines. If you travel a lot for work or pleasure, this is especially important because some of the programs may take longer (up to 3 weeks) than others to process the change request. It’s not the end of the world if there is a gap between program changes – just be sure to bring two forms of ID to prove you are the same person. Most of these programs require photocopies or scans of either two drivers licenses (maiden and current name), OR your marriage certificate. You can write a letter saying you got married and need to change the last name on the account, give them your contact info and program membership number, and included a scanned copy or photocopy of the proof. I either mailed, emailed, or submitted it online depending on which loyalty program it was.  Here are the deets on each travel program:
    • American Airlines AAdvantage Program: Submit these requests via fax to the American Airlines AAdvantage Department at 817-963-7882. If you don’t have a fax machine, you can initiate the request by emailing American Airlines Customer Service, and then sending the information they ask you for when they respond. Also include photocopies of either your marriage certificate or two forms of photo ID (including your old name and new name).
    • Hilton HHonors: Email  your request to HHonors@hilton.com. They didn’t ask for proof.
    • Hyatt Gold Passport: Your written request must be mailed to Hyatt Gold Passport, Customer Service Center, P.O. Box 27089, Omaha, NE 68144. You can also fax the information to 402-593-9449.  Include a photocopy of your marriage certificate or two forms of photo ID (including your old name and new name).
    • Marriott Rewards: Your written request must be signed and mailed to Marriott Rewards Customer Support, 310 Bearcat Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah 84115-2544.  You can also fax the information to 801-468-4033.  Also include legal proof – either your marriage certificate or two forms of photo ID (including your old name and new name).
    • Southwest Rapid Rewards: Name change requests must be submitted in writing to Rapid Rewards, P.O. Box 36657, Dallas, Texas 75235. You can only make email address and physical address changes on Southwest.com after logging into in your account.  The proof can be photocopies of either your marriage certificate or two forms of photo ID (including your old name and new name).
    • Starwood Preferred Guest: Email research@starwoodhotels.com or fax your information to 519-633-8870. The form of proof should be the marriage certificate.
  • Any professional licenses you may have (CPA, MD, etc.)

Things you can probably change at your leisure:

  • Utilities – Protocol varies by company. I was able to do LADWP and SoCal Gas via my online account with no proof of name change required. However, a friend who has Pasadena Water and Power had to go in person to change it. Time Warner Cable said I needed to go in person and show my new drivers license, but I was able to change the payment form over with no problem which is all I’m sure they really care about. My last TWC store experience was on par with going to the DMV, so I’ll just let them keep billing my maiden name.
  • Gym Memberships – I was able to just email the “contact” at the fitness studios I work out at. Each gym may be different, so you’ll just need to call and see what the protocol is.
  • Subscriptions – magazines, newspapers, etc.

Major quick tip:

  • The easiest way to find out how to go about changing your name on most types of accounts is to go to the respective website and search “legal name change” to figure out the instructions.

Finally, gentlemen – thank your wives for doing this if they are taking your name.  If they’re not, can you blame them?

Was this helpful?  Did I leave anything out?  Feel free to let me know in the comment section if I did!

[NOTE: This post was written in 2015, so pricing may vary from year to year and in different states.]

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