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Changing your name after tying the knot requires more than simply updating your driver's license and calling it a day. Every important document and account in your name—from your Social Security card and bank accounts to your passport—must be addressed individually. You'll have to jump through a few hoops, but the process isn't overly complicated.
When all is said and done, changing your name after your wedding is entirely up to you. If you do decide to take your spouse's name, this simple marriage name checklist is a handy guide for getting it done.
Obtain a Copy of Your Marriage Certificate
Your marriage certificate—a government document verifying that you indeed got married—is the most important document you'll need for making a name change. Getting one begins with heading to the county clerk's office to get your marriage license prior to the big day. A license is essentially a marriage application that may need to be filed in the same county where you're holding your nuptials. Fees typically range from $15 to $35.
Every county is different, so be sure to clarify ahead of time what documents you'll need to get your license. In addition to your driver's license or government-issued ID, you might also be asked to present your birth certificate or bring a witness. Those who are getting remarried will also want to bring their divorce certificate (or your former spouse's death certificate if you're widowed).
Shortly following your marriage ceremony, both spouses and the person officiating the wedding will sign the marriage license. Witness signatures may also be required. The officiant generally submits the completed license to the county on the couple's behalf. You'll then receive your marriage certificate in the mail, making the union official in the eyes of the law.
Order a New Social Security Card
Once you have your marriage certificate in hand, it's time to update your Social Security card. You can go in person to a Social Security Administration office to file the appropriate paperwork; just be sure to call ahead to make an appointment, as walk-in services may be limited. Alternatively, you can mail your documents to your local Social Security office. (The change can't be done online, unfortunately.)
The good news is that getting a new card is free. You'll just need to provide your completed application and updated ID, along with your marriage certificate. Just bear in mind that only original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency will be accepted.
Get a New Driver's License
Obtaining a new driver's license (or state-issued ID card if you aren't a driver) that reflects your new last name is next on your list. This must be done in person, as name changes are typically treated like a license renewal. In other words, you can expect to snap a new photo and pay a fee. Filling out the application beforehand can help streamline the process. Check your state's DMV website to get started.
Once you're at the DMV, have your current driver's license and marriage certificate on hand. It might also be helpful to bring your Social Security card, although this may not be necessary. Again, consult your state's DMV website ahead of time to see if any other supporting documentation is required.
Update Your Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
When it comes to changing your name, you may find that getting a new Social Security Card and driver's license are the most time-intensive tasks. Fortunately, updating your name on your bank accounts is a relatively straightforward process. The particulars can vary depending on the financial institution, so begin by listing out all your accounts. This may include the following:
- Checking and savings accounts
- Retirement accounts
- Other investment accounts
- Credit cards
- Mortgage loans
- Auto loans
Reach out to each financial institution individually or search their websites to get clear on what you need to do to update your name. While some might require you to present your marriage certificate, others may only need your new driver's license or Social Security card. Either way, make sure you understand how you can provide the necessary documents. Some may allow for digital uploads; others might not.
Take Care of Loose Odds and Ends
Now that you've taken care of the big items, look to any other accounts or important documents that are listed under your previous name. These can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Insurance policies: Health insurance, life insurance, and homeowners insurance all fall under this umbrella. Contact each insurer individually to find out what their process is for changing your name.
- Passport: If it's been less than a year since your passport was issued, you'll need to fill out an application and mail it and your most recent U.S. passport, a certified copy of your marriage certificate and a photo to the National Passport Processing Center. If it's been more than one year since your passport was issued, you'll submit a different form, which requires all the same documents and also requires a renewal fee to be paid.
- Rental lease agreements: Contact your landlord to notify them of your recent nuptials and clarify what they need in order to change your name on your lease. Amending your lease to reflect your new name shouldn't be a problem, assuming you provide your landlord with your marriage certificate.
Will My Credit Score Change After Changing My Name?
Changing your name has no impact on your credit report or score. Any accounts you held in your name only prior to your wedding will remain separate (married couples do not have joint credit reports). However, if you choose to open joint accounts or cosign accounts with your spouse, those accounts will show up on both your credit report and your spouse's and will, in turn, affect both of your individual credit scores. The upside is that you can boost your scores if you both manage these accounts responsibly.
While your credit file will remain separate from your spouse's, both will come into play when applying for a joint account. Whether it's a credit card, auto loan or mortgage, you may be charged higher interest rates—or be declined altogether—if you are applying jointly and one spouse has poor credit. It's also worth noting that what's considered joint debt after you're married varies from state to state. No one likes to think about divorce, but should it happen, the state you live in may treat all assets and debts accumulated during the marriage as an equal responsibility—regardless of whose name was on the accounts.
One bright spot is that there's no need to notify the major credit bureaus of your new name—it will automatically be reported by your lenders once you update any open accounts in your name. Your previous name will likely still be noted on your credit report as well.
Review Your Credit Report After a Name Change
Even though your new name should be automatically added to your credit report once you've updated your accounts with your lenders, it's still wise to check your report after a few months to make sure your new name appears. You can check your Experian credit report for free in a matter of minutes. You may find there are accounts listed on your credit report that you forgot to have updated. Check to see if there are creditors you forgot to notify or accounts that have failed to update your name. In these cases, it's best to contact those lenders individually to notify them of the change.
The Bottom Line
Getting married is an exciting time, whether you choose to change your name or not. It marks the beginning of a new life together, which will likely mean commingling your finances to some degree. Staying on top of your credit is vital, as your credit score can affect everything from getting a mortgage to buying a car together. Experian's free credit monitoring tool can help keep you one step ahead and detect potential fraud sooner rather than later.