Q&A: Patricia Oliver

Tips for a Successful Name Change After Saying “I Do”

Tuesday, June 01, 2010
So you’re getting married. Congratulations! Once the marriage is official, a bride can begin the process of changing her name. Not all brides take their husband’s name, of course. But many do, and now a number of couples hyphenate their two names or create a new one altogether. The key to a successful name change is knowing what to do and when. One false step can make a person vulnerable to identity theft, damage credit and cause trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. CyberScout fraud specialist Patricia Oliver, newly married, shares tips from our Marriage Identity Services.

What’s the first thing I should do if I’m going to change my name?
Order one or two certified copies of your marriage certificate, which many institutions will require to complete a name change. Then hit those institutions in order of importance, beginning with the Social Security Administration.
After you notify them, wait 48 hours before going to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get your driver’s license changed. (This gives the SSA time to update their records so the DMV can see the change in its system.) Brides should bring their existing driver’s license, their birth certificate and the letter from the Social Security office that shows their new name and proof a new Social Security card was requested.

What other institutions should I notify of my name change?
The first two are the most important (the SSA and DMV). They will let the IRS know. Then move on to the following organizations—U.S. Department of State (for passports), U.S. Postal Service, voter registration office, your employer, credit card companies, loan agencies, insurance companies, banks, utilities and medical offices. Then you get into the wills and legal documents that you need to get corrected.

What steps can I take to protect my credit with the transition?
Pull your credit report to make sure everything listed on there is correct. You don’t want to be getting married with credit issues that aren’t yours, that kind of ugly stuff. This will help you and your future spouse know what score you have together and separately. That way, when you’re purchasing a new home or getting a vehicle together, you won’t be surprised by collections accounts or something that’s incorrect on your credit report. It just will help with the future purchases that you’ll be making together.
Also, in the lead-up to and immediately following the wedding and honeymoon, it’s important to closely watch credit card expenses. A hotel may be tempted to charge an extra night’s stay, or a vendor may pencil in a few dozen more personalized coasters.

How can I protect my identity during this process? Are there certain exposures I should be aware of?
Engaged couples attend a lot of bridal shows and expos, but they should avoid signing up for free gifts and raffle tickets. Every time you enter your name on a marketing list, you make yourself vulnerable to fraud. It’s also popular—not to mention convenient—to use checklists and other tools on wedding Web sites. If you’re searching online, just make sure you’re not giving these sites any personally identifiable information—like Social Security numbers and birth dates. And there’s no reason for a wedding officiant, for instance, to ask for your Social Security number.

This sounds like a lot of work.
It’s easy to get your name changed if you’re aware of the documents that are needed and the steps you have to take. The only downfall is it’s time-consuming. But as a new bride, it’s exciting to see a government-issued ID with your new name on it. It’s definitely worth the time spent.

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