How to Legally Change Someone's Last Name

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There are several reasons you may want to change your name, such as marriage, divorce, adoption or just the desire to have a new name. The laws vary from state to state, but the main steps are basically the same. For instance, you start with the same forms, but in some states just having used the new name for a certain amount of time can be grounds for a legal change. In other states, you need a court order.

Obtain a name change form specific to your state by doing a quick online search or by going to your local courthouse. Fill the form out completely, making sure to spell the new name correctly. Consider the new name carefully. Avoid names that contain profanity, hateful slurs, a celebrity's name or copyrighted company name, as these may be rejected.

Submit the form to your local courthouse. Find out the exact requirements for a name change in the state where you reside and fulfill all requirements. When the name is approved, a court order will be issued. Notify the public of your name change as required by the state. Inform all institutions that require your legal name on file, such as the DMV, Social Security Administration, credit card companies, banks and your workplace.

Be sure, if your name change is a result of marriage, that the marriage certificate is filled out correctly as the certificate can serve as your proof of name change with all institutions. Some institutions may require you to provide an actual certificate, not a photocopy. Obtain duplicate copies from your local courthouse. A divorce decree can also serve as legal grounds to change your name without a separate court order.


  • Changing your name to do something illegal, such as avoiding a debt or getting away with a crime, is not allowed.


About the Author

Beth Wankel is currently working as a freelance writer, editor and as a parenting blogger. She holds a bachelor's degree in English, with a minor in print journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She has several years of professional writing and editing experience, namely web writing. Wankel resides in San Francisco with her husband and young son.

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