When we got married last year, I faced a dilemma that more and more women are calling into question. Although in the past it was normal for a married woman to take her husband’s last name, it has become a more contentious issue in recent years. Since I didn’t marry until later in life, I have felt more hesitant to give up my maiden name. In addition to the time and hassle to go through the whole process, there are some fees associated with it as well. As I wrestled with this decision for a few weeks, I decided to start by figuring out exactly how much it would cost to change your name.
The Hesitancy to Make the Change
After 35 years, I have grown quite attached to my maiden name. Since it is unique, it creates a strong familial bond and an easily identifiable way to recognize more distant relatives. And after losing my dad this year, I have an even greater attachment to my name.
In addition to all my personal feelings, there is also a professional cost to change your name. Over the years, I have published many things under my maiden name and made several important business contacts. A part of me feels that giving up my last name is also giving up an important piece of my identity.
The Logistics to Change Your Name
Despite my conflicting emotions on the subject, I decided to go on a fact-finding mission to find out what it would take to formally change my name.
Luckily, I had made a list of all the things that required me to update my contact information from my last move. So, I had a good idea of how many places I would need to call to change my name as well. However, I knew it would not be nearly as simple as changing my address or phone number. Each organization and financial institution is different and will have its own process you need to follow.
Checking the List
Making a to-do list always makes large tasks seem more manageable. So, I reviewed which legal, financial, and personal accounts I would need to change. All in all, there were about 25 documents and accounts that would need to be updated:
- driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Foreign Residency card
- W2s and tax documents
- banking and investment accounts
- credit cards
- digital wallet
- health and car insurance
- car titles
- phone plan
- memberships and subscriptions
Starting with the Easy Ones
Once I made a few initial phone calls and went online to see what would need to be done, I started by tackling the easy one. Fortunately, many of my accounts would allow me to do it online. All they needed was a digital copy of our marriage license and my new ID to update the accounts.
And much to my surprise, a new ID was relatively easy to get. I just needed to schedule an appointment online with the DMV and bring a certified copy of the marriage license with me. All it would take is about 15 minutes and a $16 fee to get it changed. The process was about the same to change your name with the Social Security office as well. However, they take care of it free of charge.
Saving the Worst for Last
Unfortunately, some of the more important documents and financial accounts require you to jump through more hoops.
The most time-consuming ones would be my financial accounts. Each bank requires you to visit a branch in person to make the change with a banker. For security purposes, they wanted to make photocopies of your ID and marriage license, and get your signature on the paperwork. Although my credit card would let me do it by mail, they would also require me to send a certified copy of the marriage license along with the photocopies.
The final piece would be to change my passport. Since they have recently changed the process, you can now renew online. So, I went online to find the forms to change my name on my passport. You can complete it online for about $60 and then wait for them to send it in the mail.
Tallying Up the Cost to Change Your Name
When I tallied up the final cost for the documents and fees to update my information, here’s what it came to:
- marriage license – $25
- 3 certified copies – $27
- ceremony with the justice of the peace – $150
- driver’s license – $16
- passport – $60
The grand total to change my name after marriage was $278. However, it costs more money if you decide to legally change your name for any other reason. This will require you to file a petition through the local court and publish it in the local newspaper for four consecutive weeks. Both these actions come with additional costs.
The Final Decision
From the onset, I had my doubts about giving up my name because I felt like I would be giving up a piece of myself. In addition, it is a huge time commitment to make all the necessary phone calls and in-person visits to change your name. And grieving the loss of my dad made it even harder.
However, my husband made a good point that I wasn’t losing my identity, just evolving. Sharing a surname would create a sense of cohesion within the new family and life we are trying to build together.
So in the end, we compromised by hyphenating my name. Although I plan to continue using my maiden name professionally, I’m okay using just his socially After a year of being married, I finally made the formal change. Now, I am waiting for the last of the documents and confirmations to be sent by mail before I can mark the task complete. I feel like it’s the best of both worlds and I am at peace with the decision.
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Jenny Smedra is an avid world traveler, ESL teacher, former archaeologist, and freelance writer. Choosing a life abroad had strengthened her commitment to finding ways to bring people together across language and cultural barriers. While most of her time is dedicated to either working with children, she also enjoys good friends, good food, and new adventures.