I knew when I was 10 that I was going to change my last name after marriage. I was going to marry a man with a simple last name and no one would ever mispronounce my name again. I would be just like everyone else.
As luck would have it, I did marry a man with a simple last name and I did take that name after marriage. The process of changing my last name was not necessarily very difficult, but there are some big lessons that I learned that I wish someone would have told me. One in particular that still keeps me awake at night.
So here we go, my lessons learned:
Frame, hide, or lock away your original marriage license.
This is my number one biggest regret and it will haunt me until the day I die. When you begin the process of changing your last name, each and every banking institution will put you through their own unique process of proving you are who you are. One in particular insisted that I mail (not email) them either the original marriage license or a certified copy of it. They insisted that this was commonplace and that it would never get lost in the mail. Well…it did get lost in the mail. And now it is gone forever. My original marriage license with the real ink that we used to sign it, my last signature as a single woman and my first signature as a newly minted wife. Both of our mothers signed it as well. All gone.
Of course, in hindsight, it is easy to say that I should have sent them a certified copy. And that is precisely my advice to you! But the reality is that I wasn’t sure what it would take to get a certified copy and I just thought it would be easier to send them the real one.
Before you do anything, order multiple certified copies of your marriage license.
Low and behold, the process is actually very easy to get certified copies. You need the address of the courthouse, a cashier’s check, and a completed one-page application. This should be the first thing you do before you start changing anything else. Keep one copy in your purse or wallet, one in a safe place, and use one for all the institutions that will require it.
Make a list of the companies that PAY you.
It is natural to make a list of every bank or investment company that you have an account with. This is likely the first thing you’ll do and you’ll just go down the list checking them off as you change your name. BUT you need to be really careful with this. Before you start changing your bank accounts, make a list of every company that pays you – these sources are far more important and some of them will NOT transfer money to you if the name on your bank does not match the name they have on file. Paypal is a prime example and one that caught me off guard. Quite a few of my online income sources flow into my Paypal account and I was accustomed to transferring money straight into my bank account. I couldn’t do this, however, once my name was changed at the bank. No money was lost obviously, but it was a big inconvenience while I straightened things out and I was lucky that it didn’t cause a cash flow issue for me.
Consider keeping your last name.
You now know my regrets (above), but here’s something I’m so grateful I did: I changed my middle name to my maiden name. So now it’s still a part of me. Because, honestly, even though I knew I wanted to change my last name, I was still a little sad to lose my maiden name. It was not only part of my identity, but part of my family’s identity. Now, I feel like I have the best of both worlds. It still shows up on my driver’s license and passport, but I have my husband’s (wonderfully simple!) last name, which means I will also have the same last name as my children.
It’s easier than you think.
Aside from my lessons learned above, changing my name was actually far easier than I thought it would be. You will need to start with your social security card and it’s as simple as checking a box. Once that is complete, your driver’s license will almost be automatic (they will just look up your social security number – which will now have your new name). For most banking institutions, an electronic copy of your marriage certificate will suffice, so you can just send them all at the same time.
And then you’re done! The new married you has entered the world! Now it’s time to focus on loving your new life and avoiding the new bride blues.
And when you’re ready for the next addition to your life, be sure to bookmark my blog, so you can stop back for some baby talk. 😉