by Michael Kabel
Taking your husband's name is an old tradition that's become completely optional in our modern age. In fact, there's no law saying you can't keep your name, hyphenate the two names together, or even let your husband take your name as his own (now there's a twist!)
But when you think about the amount of paperwork needed to change your identity, the idea tends to get a little daunting. There's a lot of red tape to cut through, especially if you're already worn out from the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon.
The best advice: start with the big things, and work your way down to the little ones. Before you begin, you'll need copies of the marriage certificate, to provide to the companies and organizations that require them as proof.
Changing Your Name With the Government
The Social Security Administration is the best place to start the name-change process. Matching your new name to your SSN requires a completed SS-5 form and specifying the change of information. The Administration’s website, www.ssa.gov, includes in-depth instructions at this page: http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/ssa.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=315. Changing your SSN is crucial, so that the IRS will accept your tax return the following year. An indictment for felony tax fraud can really dampen the excitement of a new marriage.
With that out of the way, you should make arrangements to change your driver's license and car registration with your state's department of motor vehicles. They may also be able to update your voter registration.
At the post office, you'll need to update your address information. If you're going abroad for a postponed honeymoon or for other travel, you should also plan on getting your passport revised.
Changing Your Name At Work
Unless you're marrying a millionaire (and even then, still...) you'll probably continue working. Let your company's human resources department know about your upcoming wedding, and be sure to provide them copies of your new Social Security number (they'll need it for your W-2 form) and driver's license. They'll also need to update all your benefit information and retirement plan details
As an extra thought, this is a good time to order new business cards and inform all your clients or business relations of the change in name. Email and any other online forms and registrations including your maiden name should also be updated, possibly with assistance from your company's technical support or operations department.
Changing Your Name With Creditors and Businesses
Unfortunately, you're not off the hook with your credit card companies and other money institutions just because you get married. They're going to be very interested in your change of identity. Some may also wish to issue new credit cards with your married name.
Don't forget about banks, mortgage companies, your landlord, insurance companies, and your doctor and dentist.
Credit experts advise all new brides to pay special attention to creditors. Changing your name without leaving a trail for credit card companies to follow can result in your good credit rating getting deleted - hardly the way to begin a future with your husband. As a hedge against this, you may want to notify the credit bureaus in charge of your credit rating, so they'll know your payments and purchases are happening under your new name.
There's probably also lots of other details you'll want to change, including your frequent flyer mile accounts, memberships in clubs and societies, schools, and enrollment in charities and nonprofit organizations. You should also update your subscription information to any professional magazines and journals.
Getting The Paperwork Done
A form letter will work in most non-official cases, though some creditors and banks will probably have a form to fill out that authorizes the name change and makes it official for their record keeping. For some organizations, a phone call is sufficient. Some will want copies of the aforementioned marriage certificate as well, or other documentation from the government.
Needless to say, the sooner you begin all these changes, the less stressed you'll feel in the long run. Companies, businesses, and especially the government operate at their own speed (usually about half that of a briskly moving iceberg) so you'll need to cushion your time to work on their schedule. It's sometimes tough to keep patience, but after all... how often do you get to change your name?