Monday, February 20, 2017

Finally Mrs. Benjamin - Tips for Changing Your Name

Did you run away in a fit of passion and elope over Valentine's Day weekend? Now you're trying to figure out how to go from Ms. to Mrs. as the dust of your nuptials settles. Did you get engaged over the weekend and you're anticipating what is to come? Congratulations! I am Mrs. Benjamin (yes I said Mrs., that was not a typo. I changed my name successfully and on the cheap) and I am here to say, (1) I figured it out, (2) I did not pay anyone to do it for me, and (3) it did not take very long.

Ross and I sealed the deal in August 2015. I started the easy breezy process to change my name from Bricker to Benjamin the following January. We had received our signed and sealed marriage license in October, but because of our travel plans in November, I had decided to wait. (I needed my passport to match my airline reservations). Once I decided the time was right, I wasn't sure where to start and spoke with the HR rep in my office. She directed me to the Social Security Administration...this is where the fun begins. Before you dive in, ask yourself...

  • Did you book a honeymoon in your maiden name?
  • Do you need your passport in the next month or two?
  • Do you have travel reservations booked in your maiden name?
If you answered yes to either of these...bookmark this page and hold off on changing your name until you have completed travelling. Your name on your ID must match your name on your reservation so you don't want to dive into this process with travel plans on the table.

If you answered no to these questions then let's talk about your Name Change Tool Kit. All of the paperwork you need is probably already gathered from applying for your marriage license (as well as a few forms, which I have linked below). Grab that folder and supplement it with the following documents:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Passport
  • Marriage License (original not copy)
  • Supporting Documents (if required by your state DMV) - bank statement, utility bill, ATM card, etc.

Step 1:

Fill out an Application for a Social Security Card from the Social Security Administration website. Take this to your local Social Security office or mail it in with supporting documents. Make sure these are originals. I provided my marriage license as proof of my new name as well as a copy of my passport and drivers license (since I needed to get around legally). My initial application was rejected because I sent photo copies of these documents. I decided to send my passport with my second application (since I still needed to drive around) - this was a winning combination. I received a letter in the mail from Social Security addressed to Abigail Benjamin within a week or two.

Step 2:

Now I was on the quest to update my driver's license and passport. Armed with my marriage license as well as other forms of ID required by my state, I headed to the DMV. After I paid the fee for a new license, I was back on the road as Mrs. Benjamin. This cost about $20. Changing my name on my license updated my name in the system for the cars that I had previously registered to my maiden name. I did not pay the fees to re-register them under Benjamin until their renewals were due. This saved me from double paying in 2016 - $120. Check on how the system works in your individual state.

Step 3:

Next I was ready to change my name on my passport. There are two different forms for this depending on age of your passport (greater or less than 1 year since issue). If your passport was issued within the last year, you fill out Form DS-5504 and send  it in with your current passport, marriage license and one photo. If this is the case, you incur no fees!

My passport was several years old so I filled out Form DS-82 and sent it in with my current passport, marriage license, passport photo and a check for $140. I went to my local Walgreens for my passport photo. This cost an additional $8-$10.

Step 4:

Phew, take a break. Have a glass of wine. You deserve it. All the paperwork is done! Now head to the bank and sit down with a teller - let them know you got married and changed your name. This shouldn't be terribly difficult or painful unless you have a custodial account. Then call your parents and make sure they are there to sign off on the change or plan to close your accounts and re-open them. This is the worst case, but overall not terrible. While you're there, open a joint account with your new hubby to deposit all of those wedding gifts! Jump online and order yourself new checks, if you use them. Most banks offer a standard design for free or heavily discounted if you deal with them directly.

While you're at it, give your credit card companies a call. Just dial the 1-800 number on the back of the card and ask to speak to a customer service representative. I just did this today and it took about 3 minutes. They verified my identity and asked me to spell my last name. That simple. I will have my new card in 3-5 days!

Don't forget to inform your frequent flyer program. This ensures that all the miles you racked up on your honeymoon and throughout college are not trash. This will also mean your frequent flyer number and login to book travel will not change.

Step 4 ½:

Let your HR rep at work know your name has changed. They may need some sort of documentation, but you don't want your paycheck getting declined because its getting written out to Ms. Bricker instead of Mrs. Benjamin. This also takes care of your name in company controlled accounts like insurance and benefits. Log-in to make sure. Next time you are at your doctor's or need prescription coverage, be sure to provide the updated information so that everyone is on the same page. If you get benefits through your husband, make sure he provides the insurance company with your new name and any necessary documentation (they generally only want to deal with the primary).

This SHOULD trigger your name changes system-wide within your company. If you're me, you changed your name10 months ago and they're just figuring out that is confusing to co-workers and clients.

Cheers! You've made it! Time to celebrate finalizing your transition to Mrs!

Surviving Your Name Change

Is this process overwhelming to you? Don't let it be! I started a year ago and it has just come full circle. The paperwork may seem like a lot, but it's a few sheets here and a few signatures there (make sure you practice that new signature!) I probably invested 3 hours into the process and $170. We will budget 1 hour for filling out forms, 1 hour at the DMV (check live cameras and wait times where available to minimize your time), and 1 hour at the bank. It is easy to knock off in bits and pieces as you have 5 free minutes here and there.

If you're still not convinced that this is an effort worth your time there are plenty of name changing services that run $30-$90 depending on how much you ask (hitchswitch, missnowmrs). Personally the $30 services are not worth it. This level offers access to paperwork that you fill out, print and send yourself- I just shared you all of the links you need for free. The $90 package includes a free passport photo ($10) plus completed paperwork by the service. You just sign, pay fees and send. This still includes a level of input from you so that the service can properly fill out the paperwork for you. This may be convenient, but still requires a level of effort similar to just filling the paper out yourself.

I dare you to do it yourself!

Have you gone Ms. to Mrs.? I'd love to hear your experience...success or disaster!