One of the tricky things about being “recently married” is that the missus was in name limbo. “Technically,” she’s my wife with my last name (that’s right!). “Legally,” she still retains her maiden name until she goes to the Social Security Administration to change her SS card name and the DMV or MVA to change her license name. So what happens when we get a check written out to her new name? Trickiness! Headaches! But not to fret, I’ll try to capture everything we’ve done so that it can be as painless as possible for all you newlyweds out there.
First, just to cover the check situation, she just needed to sign her new name (what the check was made out to) followed by her former name (the name on the account), to deposit the check. In reality, unless the issuer contests it, chances are anything reasonable would’ve worked.
Now, onto the name changes…
This is the linchpin of the whole name changing operation. Everything requires this and no names can be changed without the signed marriage license or certificate. The fact that it’s been issued is proof enough that the state recognizes the marriage and the signature is proof that the marriage went through, the document was never notarized, as is required of many legal documents, but having a notary there probably would’ve killed the mood.
You’ll need to go to the DMV/MVA (whatever the place is called in your state) to make this name change request. In Maryland, you’ll need to go to a full service location with your marriage certificate and current license. Like every other trip to the DMV/MVA, I’d budget a healthy few hours and a few dollars to take care of this but somehow my wife was able to get in and out on a Tuesday morning in about half an hour (they run two different queues and the driver’s license queue was ridiculously short that day). The great thing about this step is that you are immediately issued a new license, there’s no need to wait around for one to be mailed to you.
Social Security Card
Changing your name on a Social Security Card is a bit trickier and the Social Security Administration provides this guidance , which is essentially you need to fill out a new application. You can mail in the application with the original or certified copies support documentation (proof of citizenship, legal name change, and proof of identity), but I would just go into an office rather than risking the mail. One gotcha here is that you need to bring proof of your old name too, so an expired Passport will do nicely.
Your Company HR
This step is crucial after you change your name with Social Security because your employer will be reporting Social Security payments. Depending on your company, this could be a pain or this could be a cinch. Either way, contact HR about changing your name and you will need, at most, the same documents you used for Social Security.
If your passport was issued within a year of the marriage, you’ll need to fill out a Name Change, Data Correction, and Limited Passport Book Replacement Form: DS-5504  and send it in with two Passport photos, a certified copy of your marriage certificate, and your old passport (and $60 if you want expedited service). If it was more than a year, you’ll unfortunately need to apply for a totally new Passport with Form DS-82  (and pay $60).
Strangely enough, changing your name on online accounts turns out to be a bigger PITA than anything. For example, we are both members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards Frequent Flyer program and for her to change her name, she needs to send the request in writing along with a photocopy of the marriage certificate and her driver’s license. At first I thought, “why the hassle?” until I realized it was all in the name of security, and rightfully so. I recommend starting this process as soon as you get the driver’s license because the processing time could be a few weeks.