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What you need to know to legally change your name

So, you want to change your name! It’s not as crazy at it sounds, and there are many good reasons why some people do this. The most popular reason is to share a last name after a marriage, and on the other side of the equation, changing your name back after a divorce. But still, you have the right to change your name to whatever you want for any reason, at any time.

In the United States, there are a few rules that go along with this. First, you cannot change your name to anything that features a racial slur. Your name also can’t have strange characters like punctuation or numbers. You generally cannot change your name to match a celebrity’s. Finally, you can’t use a name change to evade or manipulate the law. If you owe money or go on trial, changing your name to dodge those situations is not permitted.

Believe it or not, you don’t necessarily need to file legal papers to change your name. You can just start to use it on your own, and this does carry the weight of recognition. However, you’ll probably want your paperwork to reflect this, especially identification documents, such as your driver’s license and birth certificate. Depending on your state, you may be able to file the proper forms to do this online without having to visit a courthouse. Once you do, make a list of all the resources you use that will need to know your new name, and make sure to change it with all of them. This can help avoid problems in the future.

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