The most important thing to remember about changing your name is that it requires patience.
If you decide to take the name of your spouse, you will have to inform many different people and organizations. There is a certain order you should adhere to when doing this:
Insurance companies; and
Cable companies, phone companies, etc.
The first government agency you should contact is the Social Security Administration (“Social Security”). In our wealth management firm, we streamline the process by taking care of scheduling and accompanying our clients to the regional Social Security office. Here are some things to remember when working with Social Security:
It is necessary to make an appointment to be seen at Social Security. No walk-ins are allowed for this case.
Social Security will require a certified copy of your marriage license or decree, and they will keep it.
Please note: Most agencies and financial institutions will need to see a certified marriage license - photocopies are not enough. That is why it is important to keep at least one extra certified copy of your marriage license or decree handy.
Social Security will inform the Internal Revenue Service of your new name. This is vital because a mis-match between your name and Social Security Number could trigger a rejection on your tax return.
From there, we recommend booking an appointment - as opposed to waiting - with the Department of Motor Vehicles, in order to obtain an updated license or ID card. The updated license will make it possible to update your financial institutions, insurance companies and utility bills.
In our firm, we will take the new license and notify our custodian, TD Ameritrade, and then all of our investment accounts will be updated with your new name. Please contact us if you would like a sample form letter you can send to all your institutions.
Next there is your employer to consider. Your paychecks, W-4, elections forms, etc., all need to reflect your new name. This also gives the opportunity to review payroll deductions and make sure that your tax withholdings reflect the combined income of your new family.
Last, but certainly not least, the 3 major credit agencies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - should also be informed of your new name in order to keep your credit history. I recommend checking your credit 6 months after you marry to verify your new name is reflected (see my other Blog about credit reports and what to be aware of when requesting yours). Again, we have a form letter to assist our clients and we mail the agencies for them if needed.
Getting your name changed is tedious. It is important to remember, though, that while Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service may be aware of your name change, other agencies and institutions are not. It is up to you and your financial team to stay on top of it.
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