Anyone can legally change their name and several common reasons include after a marriage, divorce, adoption or simply wanting a different one. Changing your name is a big life event, and you will want to make sure you file the appropriate petitions and other formalities to legally change your name.

Legally Changing Your Name

Marriage and divorce are the most common reasons people choose to change their names and usually just a marriage certificate or divorce decree is all you need to make the name change. However for situations beyond these common life events, the probate court is the appropriate forum in which to get this accomplished.

Legal Process of Filing for a Name Change

The process of legally changing your name in court is recommended, given the many forms of identification, including social security card, birth certificate, and passports that establish your legal identity.

The process of changing your name will generally involve:

  • A petition to the probate court to change your name by filing the appropriate form that you can obtain (here) or by contacting the court itself.  
  • The completed forms are processed by the court clerk along with state-required filing fees.
  • In most cases, a judge will review the forms and grant the name change after a brief hearing.

Some Exceptions to Name Changes

  • You cannot change your name to escape debt or criminal liability.
  • Change your name with the intention to mislead others.
  • If you are a minor and wish to use the name change process as a means with which to indirectly emancipate yourself from your parent or parents(s). Emancipation is a separate legal proceeding which is also dealt with at the probate court.

Who Should You Notify of Your Name Change?

  • Your new name should be added to all personal and legal documents, including wills, titles, trusts, accounts as well as official forms of government or state issued identification. Changing your name on estate planning documents will make it easier for your heirs in the future to avoid additional steps that prove your former name and identity are the same before being awarded your estate.

    Appointing a legal guardian for your child or children is an important option available to parents who wish to plan for the care of minor children in their absence due to a variety of situations, such as illness, incarceration, or death. Choosing a legal guardian allows parents to name a caregiver who can step in to provide decision-making concerning the protection, education, and care of their children. The appointment of a legal guardian is a provision frequently contained in a will in establishing your direction after your death but you also have the ability to designate what is called a “stand by guardian” for you while you are alive in the event certain preconditions occur such as you becoming disabled.

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