5 Common Name Change Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Nicole FallonLegal

Most people who change their name do so in connection with a major life change, like marriage or divorce. However, some simply dislike their given name and choose to change either their first, middle, or last name (or all three) to better suit their identity as a person.

Whatever your reason for changing your name, avoid these common — and sometimes costly — mistakes.

1.  Procrastinating your legal name change

Changing your name on your social media profiles and asking people to call you by your new name is easy, but the actual legal process is a bit more involved. Because of the various steps you must take to complete a legal name change and update your official records, some people may put off this daunting task.

However, waiting too long can delay your ability to cash checks made out to your new name or open new accounts under your chosen name. To do these things, you’ll need

2. Changing your name too soon

If you change your name too soon, you might run into issues with traveling or your legal documents. Changing your name before a marriage may confuse county clerks when issuing a marriage license — or airport service workers if you leave for your honeymoon with a mismatching name on a ticket and passport.

With divorces or adoptions, changing your name during legal proceedings may confuse attorneys, judges, and other active parties.

3. Forgetting to bring your original documents to your appointment

If you’ve made an appointment with a lawyer to help talk through a comprehensive name change, it’s imperative you remember to bring your original documents with you to your appointment, or you won’t be able to change your name. The same goes for every institution you visit or contact to initiate the name change.

For the Social Security Administration, you’ll need to bring proof of U.S. citizenship, including two separate un-expired documents from this list:

  • A U.S. passport.
  • Your birth certificate.
  • A hospital record of your birth.
  • A U.S. military identification card.
  • An employee identification card.
  • A health insurance card (that is not Medicare).

For your VA driver’s license, you’ll need to wait 48 hours after initiating the change with Social Security and then travel to the DMV, bringing:

  • Proof of the life change bringing about your name change, including a signed marriage certificate, a divorce decree, or the original or test copy of the court order granting the name change.
  • A completed “Driver’s License and Identification Card Application” (DL-1P).
  • Your valid Virginia license.

4. Failing to notify financial institutions and employers

Online services exist to help a newlywed update their legal name in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, those services don’t cover every single institution where a person might need to change their name. While the Social Security Administration and the DMV are the big places to hit, you’ll also need to notify all financial institutions with which you hold an account, your employer, professional organizations to which you belong, your car’s title and registration, subscription services, and more.

5. Not updating your documents or estate plans

After informing all institutions and providers of your name change, ensure you update legal documents like your estate plan or will. Especially for marriages, divorces, and adoptions, these life changes offer a golden opportunity to update your own name and add or subtract a beneficiary or partner.

Changing your name in Virginia?

To avoid making these common name change mistakes, get help from My Legal Case Coach. We offer documents for divorce-related name changes, as well as a special case form packet for name changes unrelated to a pending divorce case.

No matter the situation, My Legal Case Coach’s packet includes a free hour of one-on-one virtual legal coaching. Should you need additional prepaid coaching for ongoing guidance, My Legal Case Coach is available for more on-demand help. Schedule a free consultation today to get started.