Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Double E to Double F: Name Changing De-coded, Part II

Since I've hashed out the emotional side to changing your name (or not changing your name), I think it's time to talk about logistics. Because navigating this much paperwork is never fun, and I felt like there were next to zero resources out there spelling out the logistics of name-changing. Also, many of us struggle so much with the emotional debate that we never even confront the logistical issues.

If you only take one thing away from this whole post, let it be that you should just carry your marriage license (laminated, perhaps) around with you for the first couple of months that you are married. You will need it for EVERYTHING.

So first, a step by step tutorial for changing your name, if you so choose:

1. Social Security card. Once you have your marriage license, it can be tempting to skip this part, since it's the most fraught with beaurocracy and all the lines that go with that. Don't be lured in - you need to do this first (I didn't, and it's making my life miserable). To avoid the mess, I would recommend sending everything in via mail. No lines = less hassle. I will make it easy for you: Go to this web page, and follow the instructions.

2. Driver's license or state ID. Once you get your documents back from the social security office, head to the DMV and get your new license. This is pretty painless, and especially easy if it coincides with an address change.

3. Banks and Credit Cards. For your banking, just go into the bank's local branch with your original marriage license and ask them to make the changes. Credit card companies will often ask you to send in a copy of your marriage license and can be a hassle about the whole thing. My experience was very easy, but I do all of my banking through Bank of 'merica and don't use any outside credit card. Hands down, if everything is linked, this will be easier.

4. Open a joint account. Since you are already at the bank.... Even if you are not planning to merge your finances, I highly recommend opening a joint account. Use it for bills, vacation savings, whatever. The key reason you need this is because people will make out checks to both of you, as Mr. and Mrs., no matter what you chose to do with your name. These are a pain in the ass to deposit (at least they were for us), if you don't have a joint account. You can always split the dough and close it after you've deposited everything.

5. Passport. It's very important to do this last, because the DMV will confiscate your old license, and it's good to hold on to at least one piece of government issued ID with your old last name on it to verify credit cards (before the changes go through), to take flights that you booked before you changed, etc.. It's very nice to have a back-up, and passports tend not to get as much daily use as other forms of ID, so it's okay to wait on updating it. Unless you are an international super-spy, in which case reverse this step with step 2.

While there is no "to-do"list for not changing your name, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Someone will definitely write a very well-intentioned check made out to "Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname" or "Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname". To deposit these, having a joint account will help a BUNCH. Then you can go to the bank alone with your marriage license and politely explain that Mrs. Hislastname does not exist, but that you can prove that you are his wife and would like to deposit this check in your joint account. If you don't have a joint account, you do the same thing, only agree beforehand whose account the money is going into and bring him with you (with government issued ID and the marriage license).

2. Tell people about your decision, because most people are nice and want to address you properly. I have been told a story where a mother found out her daughter was not changing her name at the bridal shower, and it did not go over well.

3. Keep lots of copies (and maybe get some notarized) of your marriage license. Order official extras from the county clerk's office where you got it. Since lots of jerks out there expect that all married people share a last name, you will save yourself lots of hassles by having proof of your union handy most of the time. Get it laminated. Make it a joke. It's okay to be angry about the fact that this is even an issue (why would you say you were married if you weren't?), but if your partner is in a coma and you want to get into the emergency room, arguments about what's fair will go out the window and you'll be really glad you have that silly little laminated sheet. You can cuss out the backwards idiot guarding the door later.

So hopefully this gives some practical insight to the whole, messy process of name changing. I know was looking for this and lots of other information under the heading "So You're Married, Now What?". I look forward to filling the void. Also, why can't I hire a planner to do the paperwork part for me?

1 comment:

  1. So true. I ordered 5 copies of our ML and keep one in my wallet, one in my desk at work and had a scanned one in my email. The other three are at home somewhere. It was really handy in the first year.