The wedding is over, the honeymoon was great – and it’s back to settling into a new married life. Of all the changes that a newly-married couple face, perhaps the most important one is what last name is going to be used. There is no ‘right’ answer, as the choice is basically a personal one now; it is no longer a social obligation for the bride to assume the groom’s last name. Because of the possible legal ramifications that can occur if not done correctly, a law firm would recommend seeking legal assistance to prevent any future problems from happening.
To Change – or Not to Change
There is no law or statute that requires one spouse to take the surname of the other after marriage; the practice is more traditional than legally required. Who takes which last name is also not spelled out legally, according to an attorney with a law firm. Any variation that is acceptable to the married couple can be done, including hyphenating one spouse’s last name with the others and vice versa. There are more couples every year who choose not to change anything at all.
There are many practical reasons for retaining the same last name after marriage, especially for professional workers who have established a working reputation with one name and might be unrecognized by a spouse’s name. A law firm often recommends either retaining the pre-marriage name or hyphenating it with the married one to retain a business connection with the surname that is connected to the professional one. Again, most of the choice is a simple matter of preference.
What to Change – and When
For those newlyweds who decide to either change their last name in some fashion, any update of personal information must go through the correct legal channels to be considered official. Since many of the updates are dependent on other changes, a law firm is familiar with such processes and recommend to “triage” or prioritize the change process, creating a list of the order in which name changes must be done, from most important to the least.
- Social Security and IRS – All name change processes must begin with Social Security, as proof of a valid Social Security Number is required by many of the subsequent actions. In addition, the Social Security Administration will automatically notify the IRS of the name change to a particular SSN, so two of the most important places can be taken care of at the same time.
- Department of Motor Vehicles – After the SSN change, filing for a new driver’s license should be next. This is also a good time to change the name of any applicable vehicle titles as well as any other registered legal document. This area can perhaps be handled more easily by a law firm that is more familiar with all areas to be covered with the DMV.
- Employers and Benefits Departments – Again, with an updated SSN with the corrected name, the next step should be with an employer’s Human Resources department to change all employment records so that wage information sent to Social Security and the IRS will match the newly-changed records. At the same time, all group insurances such as health, life, long term care, etc. should be changed. Don’t forget to change any beneficiaries at this time on applicable policies.
- Financial and Medical Institutions – With the new SSN as a basis, all banking accounts, investment accounts, credit cards, loan records, and other financial services should be updated; if desired, new checks could be ordered as well. Don’t forget notifying all doctors and hospitals, especially those being currently seen and used.
- Local, State and Federal Agencies – It is an individual’s responsibility to follow through with state and local tax services, U.S. Postal Service, and voter registration as well as all utility providers.
The above list is by no means all-inclusive; the process to change a name is time consuming and can be frustrating as well – yet updating identification after a wedding must be done. Making a list and checking the items off when completed is one way to keep track of it all. For anyone needing help with this process, a law firm can help handle that major step from tying the know to untying all name change details!
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520