Changing your last name on your financial accounts can be one of the easiest aspects of getting married. All that's required is some paperwork and your time.
If you received wedding presents in the form of checks written out to a name that doesn’t yet (or might not ever) exist, then see the tips at the end of this article. You might not have to wait until your name is officially changed to deposit checks.
Time Is of the Essence
After making your marriage official, you might be tempted to take a breather from all the paperwork, but it’s best to update your financial accounts as soon as possible. When you go through other life changes, such as moving or making big purchases, you'll appreciate having account names that match. It’s much easier to make those critical deposits and withdrawals if everything is tidy.
It can seem like a daunting task, but you can make it easier by breaking it down into smaller steps and completing one step each day or week until everything is finalized.
Get Your Marriage Certificate
You'll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate in order to change your name with most institutions. The county clerk's office usually mails it to you after you get married, but you can also request one if you can't find it or don't already have it.
Some states have both long- and short-form marriage certificates. If this is the case in your state, then be sure to request the long-form certificate.
Get a New Social Security Card
Once you have an official copy of your marriage certificate, the next thing you should do is update your Social Security card with your new name. Your Social Security Number (SSN) will stay the same—only your last name will change. To complete this step, you'll need to fill out Form SS-5 and present it with a copy of your certified marriage certificate. You can send it by mail or in person at your local Social Security office. You'll receive your new Social Security card by mail in 7-14 days.
Update Your Driver’s License
To get a new driver’s license, you need to go to your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office with the correct paperwork in hand. Requirements vary by state, so be sure to check with yours before heading to the DMV. In most cases you'll at least need your marriage certificate, and some states also require you to bring your updated Social Security card and old driver’s license. While there, you can also ask about changing the name on the title of your car and your vehicle registration records.
Update Financial Accounts
Once you’ve received your new Social Security card and driver’s license, you'll be ready to update all of your financial records—including bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, and more. It's best to check with each financial institution first to find out what documents you need to change your name. The requirements and processes vary by institution.
Typically, you’ll submit a copy of your certified marriage certificate, your updated Social Security card and/or driver's license, and a form or letter requesting the change.
Remember to request checks in your new name if you still use them regularly.
Notify Other Service Providers and Agencies
Most of your other records can be updated online or by phone. Among others, be sure to update your car insurance, utility bills, passport, doctor’s records, and post office information.
You can also update this information as it comes. For example, instead of updating your name with all companies at once, you might update them as the bills come in. Eventually, all of your documents will reflect your new last name.
What to Do With Wedding Checks
Your loved ones, while well-intentioned, may have written wedding checks in a variety of different ways, possibly making assumptions about if and how you’ll change your surname.
If you’re staring at a pile of checks with mismatched names and wondering if you’ll ever get to deposit them, take the checks (and your spouse) to the bank. Bring a copy of your marriage certificate, and explain the situation. In many cases, bank staff will allow these one-off deposits—just ask how exactly to endorse the checks.
The long-term solution is to properly register your accounts with your new name. You don’t want to go to the branch every time you receive a check.
This article was updated and added to by Justin Pritchard.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there a time limit to changing your name after marriage?
There is not a time limit to changing your name after getting married. Some states require that you update your driver's license and other necessary documentation within 30 days after changing your name, so make sure you know these time limits within your state and meet deadlines accordingly.
Can I use my husband's last name without legally changing my own?
Everybody has the legal right to use whatever name and/or surname they desire and can change it at will under the Constitution. As long as the purpose of the name changes isn't for fraudulent activities or to intentionally confuse, you'll be able to use your husband's last name in passing. However, all legal paperwork, including driver's licenses, accounts, social security cards, etc. must have your legal name on them. If you want to use your husband's last name on something like this, then a legal name change is required.