How to Change Your Last Name

How to Change Your Last Name

With all the joys of a wedding, there sure are a lot of legalities to take care of (for the ladies, at least) once the deed is done! Zack and I got married in June, but have international travel plans (booked under my new last name) in December, so I knew changing my passport/ID would have to be something I took care of pretty quickly. Now it’s nearing the end of November and I’ve officially changed my name on allll my legal documents. Today, I’m gonna share with you the easiest way for you to do the same!

I know there are multiple ways to do each one of these things (by mail, online, in person, etc.) — so don’t think my approach is the only way! I am just sharing how went about the process and what worked best for me.

What you’ll need:

  • A marriage certificate
  • Your SSN
  • A driver’s license
  • A book to bring to all the government agency offices you’ll be sitting in 😉

Step 1: Obtain a Marriage Certificate

The marriage certificate is basically the golden key to every door you’ll need opened when going through the name change process. For those local to the Orange County area,  Zack and I applied for ours at the Santa Ana Courthouse and had my sister mail it in shortly after we were married / while we were on our honeymoon. Once we were back, I went in person to the Hall of Records to pick it up and was in & out in less than 5 minutes.  Seriously! I would definitely recommend it if you’re local! I think copies are $15 and my 1 copy got me through the whole process just fine. It is important that you know only certified copies of your marriage certificate is accepted most times; meaning it needs to come directly from the place you applied for it, or it needs to be notarized. Photocopies of the marriage certificate were not acceptable at any point during this process, from what I experienced.

Step 2: Social Security 

Before you can change your name with the DMV, you must first change it with social security. I did this in person as well. I arrived at the offices an hour after opening and was probably out within an hour and a half. I presented my drivers license and marriage certificate. The new card was shipped to me within 2 weeks with no issues. Again, those local to the Orange County area,  I went to the SS office in Brea and had a great experience there! I think my card came in about 2 weeks. There was no charge for this change.

Step 3: Department of Motor Vehicles

Let’s all let out a long sigh together. Oh, the joy of the DMV. No one likes having to spend any length of time at there.  I’m sure you could find a way to do this online or through mail, but I personally like to do this type of stuff in person so that I can make sure I have the right forms, ask all my questions, & just make sure I do everything properly. As you probably know, having an appointment at the DMV makes your trip there go about 100x faster. In my area, the soonest appointments available at the DMV are 4-6 weeks out.  For this reason, the best advice I could possibly give you is to make your appointment at the DMV before you plan on going to social security. That way, you get your new SS card with your new last name on it, and you’ll have your appointment for the DMV set in place & all your documents ready. When I went to the DMV, they required:

  • my current ID
  • my marriage certificate
  • new social security card
  • piece of mail proving my current residency — *** not just any piece of mail though! I used the envelope my SS card came in, but I believe a bill or bank statement could work too. Check online for what your DMV requires to be extra sure!

I was required to take a new ID photo too – so come prepared for that! 😉 The cost of changing you name on your license will vary depending on your state, but it should be less than $50.

Step 4: Passport 

For most people I’ve talked to, changing their name on their passport isn’t one of the things they take care of right after getting married. But since we have international travel plans next month and the tickets are under my new last name, changing my passport was something I had to get done ASAP.

Let me warn you that knowing which way you’re supposed to renew your passport is kind of tricky. There are several determining factors – ie: if you got your passport before  the age of 16, whether it’s lost/stolen/damaged, expired, etc. I would make sure you look into all of that and see which method you qualify for before starting the process. Unlike the other documents, I personally did not have the option to change my passport in person, as that was only offered to people who need to expedite their passport for immediate travel. So instead, I was able to renew by mail. Here’s how:

  • Find a post office that offers passport services
  • Pick up the necessary forms from that office, or print online (make sure they aren’t double-sided)
  • Fill out paperwork legibly & completely
  • Bring to post office with your marriage certificate, old passport, and a check made out to the US Department of State (your amount will vary depending on what your circumstances are, but should be around $170).
  • Mail it off after verifying it’s all correct with a USPS employee.

I received my new passport in less than 2 weeks when I was quoted 4-6 weeks, and I did not pay to expedite it. The turn around time can change depending on the season, so check  to see what the current wait time is.

Hope you all find this helpful!

Socail Security Card Resources: https://faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-01981

Passport resources:  https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport.html

DMV resources: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/dmv/dl

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