Thursday, May 20, 2010

Economics of name-changing

I'm always interested in how people reveal their preferences and values by how they spend their money—that's why I shared my budget early on. (I'm still planning to share the outcome with you, but I'll probably save that for the end.) And since I just completed the dreaded name change, I thought I'd share with you the process and the cost.

The order and prices may be different in different jurisdictions, but here's what I went through in Los Angeles County.

1. Get a certified marriage certificate from the County Registrar/Recorder. Cost: $14. This is the necessary first step pretty much everywhere, and one of the most annoying part of the process for me. I spent two hours in line at the Van Nuys office, so I'd recommend trying a different time of day (Tuesday at 12:30 appears to be a bad time to go in).

Before you get your copy, you'll want to make sure that your marriage license has been recorded, otherwise they'll take your $14 and you'll have to come back later and pay (and wait in line!) again. I don't know how long it takes after the wedding for the document to be recorded—our officiant mailed the license in on March 22, and the date of recording on our certificate is listed as March 26—so I'd probably wait a week or two weeks at least before attempting the first step.

2. Change your name with the Social Security Office. Cost: $0. You can find your local office here. I went to the Office in Glendale right after getting our record from Van Nuys, and there was no wait at all.

3. Change your name with the DMV and get a new driver's license/state identification card. Cost: $31 AND YOUR SOUL. (Mr. Spaniel just renewed his license and had to pay more than me, so this may or may not be an accurate amount.) I visited the DMV in Pasadena, which was ridiculously busy—I tried to sign up for an appointment online, but couldn't get one until the middle of June! I hear you can get appointments more quickly at the DMV in Lincoln Heights. Anyway, I walked in, waited in line for an hour just to get a number, and then was immediately called to a window. I got a temporary license with my new name, then was directed to another line to take a new picture (and oh my goodness am I glad I went home in between steps 2 and 3 to fix my hair and put on makeup, because I wasn't sure if they'd take a new picture or not and five to ten years of an ugly ID would just be upsetting!). And since my license was up for renewal soon anyway, I had to come back the next day, wait in a line again, check in for a written exam, wait in another line to take a written exam, actually take the written exam, and then wait in two more lines before I could get my updated interim license. Seriously, the guy ahead of me told me he'd been at the DMV for 4½ hours. Budget lots of time for this step.

4. Renew (or apply for) your passport. Cost: $110. This step can actually cost closer to $150 or more depending on your travel plans and whether or not you already have a passport, but I included the cost of the actual renewal application (you need Form DS-82) ($75); the cost of passport photos; paying for overnight return shipping (suggested by the State Department at $14.96 extra), a weather-proof, padded mailer and priority mailing with delivery confirmation (also suggested by the State Department). You'll need to include your marriage certificate, so make photocopies in advance.

If you're in a hurry, expedited processing costs an additional $60, and you'll probably want to overnight your application (about another $15). If you haven't had a passport before, there is another $25 processing fee. And if you're really in a hurry, you should make an appointment at a Regional Passport Agency.

5. Notify any professional or licensing agencies you belong to. Cost: $5. Lucky you if this doesn't apply to you, but I had to notify the State Bar of the name change right away via certified mail.

6. Notify your creditors and banks. Cost: $5. The cost of notifying your creditors really depends on how many you have—I only included the cost of postage here. My student loans have been bought, sold, consolidated, whatever over the years, and I discovered that I needed to send notice to six different lenders. Yikes! I made my own form letter and just merged the account information into each one, enclosed a photocopy of the marriage certificate, and mailed them off. I am waiting until I receive my new driver's license from the DMV (about four to six weeks, I'm told) to mail the notices to my bank so that I don't have any trouble with my ATM or credit cards not matching the name on the picture ID that I actually have.

All in all, my name change cost me $165, half a tank of gas, half of one day and a quarter of the next in line, and extreme mental anguish. ;) I guess that is how much Mr. Spaniel's desire to share a family name is worth to us! The funny part (to me) is that, because of a glitch in the system when we got our marriage license which caused Mr. Spaniel's new name not to be recorded correctly, Mr. Spaniel gets to do all of this again himself in a month or two once the amendment is processed! At least then we'll be even!

And with that, back to recaps!


  1. This is a great post. I actually signed up for and paid only $19.95 for the service. You just answer a bunch of questions online, go get your certified copy of the marriage certificate and then mail (or deliver) all of the pre-printed forms as needed. They even have them for your insurance companies, utility companies, doctor/medical offices, etc.

    Thankfully, we have local offices available that don't get quite as busy as the main offices in our county so I always take advantage of them. The DMV is the one I am most dredding...UGH!

  2. Any chance you'd want to share your form letter, minus the personal info? I have to let all my student loan vendors know about my name change as well >_<

  3. Sorry, Sarah, I don't have the files anymore, but they shouldn't take too long. Just create fields for your old name/address, account number, and new name/address.


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