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How to Legally Change Your Name

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Have you ever thought about what it might be like to go by a different name?

Maybe your name brings up bad memories or creates an unfortunate rhyme with something undesirable. Perhaps you just got married and took your spouse’s name. Or maybe it was a divorce. Or possibly you just want to change your name from something boring to something with more pizazz.

Regardless of your reasoning, you should know that legal name changes aren’t exactly easy. And there are a few cases where your requests might get rejected.

Reasons your name change may be rejected

If you have a reasonable reason to change your name and it’s a reasonable name request, you’ll most likely get approved. But there are a few big no-nos in name changes that you’ll want to avoid.

  • Celebrity names — Unless you have a good reason to change your name to match a celebrity, your name change request will likely get rejected.
  • Names that include numbers — You can absolutely change your name to Eleven, but you’re going to struggle if you’re looking to use the digits instead.
  • Hiding from debt — If you’re changing your name to avoid debt, don’t bother.
  • Offensive names — You may think it’s funny to legally change your name to something offensive, but the judge in your case will not.

How to legally change your name

It’s important to note that you do not need legal name change documents to go by a new name in most states. But the problem arises when you need to open new accounts that require official proof of identity, like a birth certificate or social security card. If you want your new name to be reflected on these accounts, you will need legal name change documents.

The process of getting these documents varies by state, but here are some guidelines for starting the petition.

  • Fill out a name change form, an order to show cause for your name change, and a decree for your name change. Keep in mind that you’ll need to prove your current identification, so be sure you have the right documents.
  • Bring your forms to your local court clerk and file them with the required filing fees.
  • A judge or magistrate may review your forms and grant the name change. You may also need to formally advertise your new name before you use it, which requires something simple like a newspaper ad.
  • Use your new name.
  • Change your name on official documents like your social security card. Changing your name on your social security card is free and relatively easy with the right documentation.

Using your new name

The most important thing you can do after changing your name is also the reason why you changed it in the first place: to use it!

This part will probably come naturally. It involves you informing your credit card companies and banks of the change. And it also includes simple things like telling your friends and relatives. And once you’ve legally changed your name, remember to use the new name on all documents and applications. Everything you apply for will still be attached to your social security number, but different names (also known as aliases) on your credit report can spark suspicion.

Changing your name is a process, but it’s worthwhile if you’re doing it for the right reasons. And once you’ve been through it, you’re going to want to hang on to your new name for quite a while.