“Proper names are poetry in the raw, like all poetry they are untranslatable” – W.H. Auden
We all live in a world where everything can be labelled a brand. It can be a pen or a dog; everything has its own name. We humans are branded with the name given by our parents. The name is the basic essence of a person’s life; it articulates who you are and from time to time reminds us of our cultural history, like from father to son. The strangest thing about our name is that it remains in the heart of our loved ones even after we have left this life.
At the time of your birth, your birth name is recorded in two legal forms, namely on your birth certificate and your social security account. In general, name changes on the birth certificate are usually made for adoption cases. In these cases, a person must file an application with their state or district court with an average court fee of $100 to $300. However, for a brand-new name change or correction in the SSA, you must submit Form SS-5 free of charge.
It’s not often that people think about legally changing their name (first or last name). However, this may be the case in the event of divorce or after marriage. Changing a name requires only a few legal steps and the completion of some documents. Those who plan to change their name might be curious to know how much it costs to change their name legally.
Whatever the reason a person decides to change their name, there is no easy way to quantify the total cost involved in this whole name change process. With all of the legal terms and procedures mentioned in this article, it may sound a bit complicated, but it can be done if you are willing to take some time to do more research.
Why does anyone want to change their name?
It will not be an easy decision to legally commit to a name change. It recently happened to one of my friends when she changed her last name to her husband’s name. So I’ve been helping her through the legal process. This is what led me to write this article so that all my readers understand the costs and patience involved in this process.
Here are some common reasons people decide to change their name:
- Sometimes names can be confusing
How should I legally change my name?
Throughout your life, you will enter your name in various documents; from school or college to applying for a job. It is not very difficult to change your name, but when it comes to paperwork, you will need to rename your credit, debit card, insurance, driver’s license, passport, social security account, tax records, etc. At a younger age, there are fewer of these things to consider; think carefully about whether you want to go through the process of changing all these things before you decide to change your name legally.
Knowing more will help you to achieve each step of your goal.
How to choose your name?
It should not only be about the money if you have committed to choosing your new identity. If you only change your last name to replace it with your husband’s name, or divorce and go back to your old name, then it will be a piece of cake to achieve this. And once you have found the right name, make sure it sticks to you like a crown for the rest of your life.
So, take your time and ask your family or friends for help!
- Your name should not appear racist or warlike, incite violence, or be offensive
- It may be silly, but do not choose a name that is deliberately confusing.
- Do not choose a name with numbers.
- No names after celebrities or famous figures. (E.g., George Clooney or LeBron James)
- Don’t change your name for dishonest reasons like for avoiding bankruptcy.
Steps to get your name changed officially in any state:
- Contact the court of the state or country and get an appointment. You may need a lawyer for document filing.
- You can also get a lawyer if you have difficulty changing your new name or the reason for the change may be invalid.
- Find out about the fee structure on the official website of the State Court.
- Find out about general legal forms in office supply stores and fill them in accordingly.
- Fill out a name change application form
- Declare on oath (with an affidavit) concerning the change of name
- The court will review your previous records for possible fraudulent reasons for changing your name.
- After everything is completed, your application will be sealed and stamped as soon as it is approved.
- You’ll then need to send a copy of the court order together with a letter with the subject line “Please change my documents because my name has officially changed” to the Driving Licence Department, the bank where you have your personal account, the Tax Office, birth certificate… etc.
Even after the court order has been approved, there are some legal documents or papers that should be replaced with your new name. These may require a phone call or a visit with evidence of your reason for changing your name (e.g. marriage certificate, divorce decree).
- Social Security account
- Credit/debit card company records
- Driver’s License
- Employers registrations forms/payroll records
- Post office records
- Electric/utility records
- Education alumni associations documents
- Mortgage forms
- Insurance records
- Doctors’ offices
- Voter’s office records
- Investment account records
- Your personal attorney records (legal documents, will, etc.)
- Passport office records
As soon as you have changed your new name in all the above documents, you will be officially known by your new name.
How much does it cost to change your name legally?
From the above, you have at least got an idea of how these name change processes work and what legal changes have to be made after the court order is approved. Now to the costs: How much does it cost to change your name? Well, it all depends on the state or country where you live.
Below, for example, you will find the average cost of the name change in some major US states.
|Filing Fee||Attorney fee||Newspaper publication cost||Average|
|How much does it cost to change your name in California (CA)||$395||$200-$500||$100||$500 – $800|
|How much does it cost to change your name in New York (NY)||$210||$200 – $300||$100||$600 – $700|
|How much does it cost to change your name in Minnesota (MN)||$320||$200 – $300||$50 -$100||$600 – $800|
|How much does it cost to change your name in Pennsylvania (PA)||$125||$150 – $00||$50 -$100||$500 – $700|
- California (CA) (http://www.courts.ca.gov/1054.htm)
- New York (NY) (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/home.html)
- Minnesota (MN) (http://www.mncourts.gov/district/4/?page=587)
- Pennsylvania (PA) (https://www.nwls.org/Name_ChangeMinors.htm)
Apart from the main costs such as registration fees, newspaper publication fees, and lawyer fees, there are some additional costs that you may not be aware of. In business meetings these are called hidden costs; they can be administrative costs, taxes, clerical fees, copying and recording costs, additional documents such as applications or affidavits. It may seem like just a few dollars, but at the end of the day it will all add up.
So be sure to find a way to solve these hidden nasties as soon as possible, before they take a big bite out of your wallet.
Here are some money-saving tips to keep your wallet full:
- Inform your credit or debit card companies, government offices, and the tax office about the change of name so that you don’t get into trouble in the future.
- Every state or country has different laws on changing your name. So, understand your law before you throw money at a name change.
- Depending on the country where you live, you may not be allowed to legally change your name more than once. So to avoid losing even more money, you might want to try to keep your new name for a longer period of time.
- Always keep your old identities safe.
- If you have or have had a legal obligation to the state or county court because of a conviction for fraudulent or immigration-related matters, you should notify your state bar association before publishing your name in the newspaper.
- The fee waiver option is helpful if you are a person who belongs to the low-income group.
How does the fee waiver work?
As mentioned above, if you are a low-income person who is unable to pay the court’s administrative fees, you can apply to the court for the “fee waiver” option. You will be asked many questions before you are granted exemption from court administrative fees.
- If you are a person who already receives public benefits such as medical care or utility assistance.
- Your household income is less than the amount stated in the court’s application form (form FW – 001).
- The court can do a background check and determine that you are not able to pay the fees.
- The benefit of the fee waiver expires automatically 60 days after your case is closed.
If the above methods still seem daunting to you, you can contact a professional name change agency for $50-$100. They will take care of all the administrative work and provide you with the final results. Of course, this can be a costly way to go, but it could save you the colossal amount of red tape associated with the name change process.