While changing your name after marriage can be accomplished with your marriage certificate, changing your name after the death of your spouse is only possible by court order. The procedures for legally changing your name, in most states, can be accomplished by filing a petition in court and attending a name change hearing.
Contact the name change section of your local court. Most states require legal name changes to be processed in the district, municipal, probate or family law court of your county of residence. If you are not sure of the appropriate court, contact your local county government office for directions.
Contact the court clerk and tell her that you would like to change your name. You will be given paperwork necessary to file. Generally, all you will need is an application or petition for a name change. Some courts have these materials available online for download.
Fill in the name change petition completely. File the completed petition and any applicable fees with the court clerk. Once your petition has been received, the court clerk will give you the date, time and courtroom for your name change hearing.
Attend the hearing. The judge will review your petition for name change by asking your reasons for changing your name and whether your are doing it of your own free will or for any fraudulent or unlawful purposes. Generally, the judge will make a decision immediately after review of your petition. If approved you will receive a court order granting your name change.
Use the original court order (or a certified copy) to update any legal and official documents such as your passport and Social Security card.