Question: I am getting married soon and intend to change my name. How do I make the change legal?
Loraine’s Answer: I’ve seen some misconceptions about what constitutes a legal name change. In Georgia, there are only two ways to change your name as an adult: (1) Apply for a marriage license, put the intended new name on the marriage license application, and then get married. (2) File a name change petition with your county Superior Court and follow the procedures there. Once you have completed either process (1) or process (2), your name has been changed. Your name is not changed when you update your driver’s license, Social Security card, or other id documents, and it is not changed when you update other documents. Changing how your name appears on id and other documents just makes sure that your documents all reflect the correct, new name. You don’t have to change your license, Social Security card, or any other documents to change your name (although it is wise to do so after a name change has occurred). And you don’t have to do both (1) and (2): Either process is sufficient by itself.
So, if you are getting married and you want to change your name, the easiest way to do that is to put the desired new name down as the post-marriage name on the marriage license application. If you do so, then after the marriage has taken place you have a new name. If you don’t change your name using the marriage license application at the time of your marriage, however, then you will need to use the Superior Court petition process in order to change it at a later date. In any case, name changes must be resolved correctly before any legal documents can be signed with the new name. And it is important to keep track of your actual legal name and use that name for important legal documents.
Key Estate Planning Takeaway: If you file for a name change when you apply for a marriage license, your marriage certificate from your county’s probate court is your legal name change document. You do not need to apply again for a name change through the county’s Superior Court.
All other legal name changes require submitting a petition to your local Superior Court. When you request to change your name, you are required to publicize your petition and wait at least 30 days before a hearing. In the state of Georgia, anyone petitioning for a legal name change must place a public notice in a newspaper specified by the court at least once a week for four weeks. After the court approves your name change request, you should update your name on government identification and other documents.
This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.