Name Change Checklist

Whether you’re adopting his last name or hyphenating your own, there are several steps to take when changing your name. First and foremost, you must get married. After that, you’ll need to register with the Social Security office. Everyone from your bank to your credit cards will ask for proof from the Social Security administration before changing your records.

Social Security Office

The good news is, getting a new Social Security card is both easy and free. All you need to do is file Form SS-5 with your official marriage certificate. You can do this in person, or via mail. To apply in person, simply show up at your local Social Security Administration office (you can find the address to your local office in the phone book or on the Internet), but be prepared to wait; you may have to. To apply via mail, you can stop by in person to pick up the appropriate form and then mail it in, call and have an application mailed to you, or download it from the SSA’s Web site (

In any case, you must be prepared to either hand over or mail your original marriage certificate. The SSA will only accept an official, original certificate. A keepsake certificate or declaration from your church will not work.

Requesting Your Marriage Certificate

Many brides don’t realize that unless you specifically request it, you won’t automatically receive a copy of your marriage certificate in the mail. Before the ceremony, you and your fiance obtain a marriage license, which is to say you have legal permission to marry. After the ceremony, your officiant will file the appropriate paperwork with the government. It is then up to you to formally request an official copy of the marriage certificate. One will not automatically arrive.

You should wait at least 2 weeks after the ceremony to ensure the paperwork was processed before you send in your request. (You can find contact information for where to write with your marriage license paperwork, or obtain it from your officiant.) Once you do, depending on the time of year (summer months are the busiest in the world of wedding documentation), you can expect to wait a few weeks for the certificate to arrive. Once you have it in hand, you can then proceed to the Social Security Office.

Receiving Your New Card

Again, be advised that whether you apply in person or via the mail, you will have to surrender your precious official copy of your certificate, but in either case, it will be returned to you by mail, along with your new card. Depending on the time of year, you can expect to wait anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for your new Social Security card.

Your new Social Security card with your new name freshly printed on it is your key to all other name changes. Once you have it in hand, make several copies. Everyone will want one.

Name Change Checklist

Now that the government knows, don’t forget to change your name with:

• Your bank
• Your work (you might want to order new business cards a few weeks in advance)
• The Post Office
• The DMV (changing the name on your driver’s license and your car’s registration requires 2 separate transactions)
• Your insurance (car, home, personal, life)
• Your doctor’s office
• Your credit cards
• Your school/alma mater
• Frequent Flyer accounts (very important when you need to cash in a that free ticket!)
• Your library/video rental cards

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