How to Legally Change Names

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It's a person's right to be known by any name, so if you're commonly referred to by your middle name, a nickname or a totally different name there's no need to formalize your name change. However, with increasing security concerns most institutions and agencies will only allow accounts and identification to be issued in the same name as your birth or marriage certificate.

If you want bank accounts, driver's license and other such records to be under a name other than your birth or married name, you must show a court order stating your old and new names. Once you have the court order, your accounts and records are not automatically updated; it is your responsibility to ensure all the necessary places have been notified of your new name, which is where Easy Name Change can help. We provide the name change notification paperwork and procedures for over one thousand organizations, including all the necessary government agencies.

How to get a court ordered name change

Here we explain the general process to change names by court order, but as the process is managed at a state level, it will vary depending where you live. First, contact your clerk of county court. You can simply Google your county name and 'clerk of court'. You can ask for a name change petition to be sent to you.

Read the petition in detail. You may be asked for information such as prior addresses, employment history, financial standing, family, education and criminal history. Applicants with criminal history are often denied the opportunity to change names. Return the completed form to the court, pay a filing fee and ask for a hearing date. Some counties may hear your case on the spot, others may take several months. Once a judge has ruled on your case you will be given a court order that states your previous and new names. At the same time apply for additional court-issued copies (called 'certified copies') of your name change order as many organizations need this. Some states require you to publish a notice of your name change in a newspaper.

Do I need a lawyer?

Most individuals are able to handle their own name change. If not, courts have self-help centers where they can assist with more information. You may ask friends or family for assistance in completing your name change, but may have to disclose their details on your petition. You can use a lawyer at any stage of the process if you choose to, but this will significantly increase your cost. Some legal firms specialize in name change and offer fixed price packages.

Can my name change be refused?

You're generally required to provide a sound reason for changing names. Your name change may be refused if it is to defraud or deceive anyone, escape financial or criminal history or if your new name could be considered offensive. It may also be refused if it infringes on intellectual property, such a celebrity's name, brand or product name. Your name should be comprised of the standard alphabet and not have unusual punctuation.

Updating records

Once your name change is approved you should cease using your previous name for all purposes. It's your responsibility to get all your records updated and it's easiest done with our Easy Name Change kit to take you through the process. Always start with your government records, specifically Social Security. If you only need to update government agencies and a few additional organizations, our basic kit for $19.95 contains the name change information for all state and federal agencies and we'll help you complete the forms.

If you have a bunch of other companies to notify, including banks, credit cards, insurance, loyalty clubs and more, our standard kit gives you full access to our database of over 1,000 organizations and provides all the information and paperwork you need.

Ready to start changing names now?

You're only a click away from starting the process, and it doesn't have to cost anything. Receive all state and federal government name change forms and procedures for free. Browse our database and see who else we can help you change names with.




Still need more information?

Browse the legal name change section of our site. Other topics include;

Legal name change time and cost
Changing a child’s name 
Name change for non-citizens
Getting records updated
Where to go for more information