So You Want to Legally Change Your Name

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on April 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Perhaps your parents decided to be creative when they named you. Maybe they were a little too creative. Now that you're an adult, you might wonder how you can legally change your name. And if there are any laws that govern changing your name.

There are. But, it's not a particularly taxing process. That's why so many Americans opt to change their names -- including celebrities. After all, Los Angeles Lakers player Ron Artest changed his name to "Metta World Peace".

Clearly you can change your name to just about anything you want. Though, there are some requirements you should know about.

In most states, you don't necessarily need to file anything with the court. Some states will let you change your name simply by use. In other situations, you may need to file forms with the appropriate court.

There are certain institutions that will definitely require some documentation. If you want to change your Social Security card, passport, or driver's license you usually need some paperwork. If you're changing your name post-marriage, a certified copy of your marriage license will typically suffice.

And you can almost always change your name to whatever you wish. Though, there are some caveats:

  • You can't change your name just to escape a debt.
  • You can't change your name in order to deceive others. For example, you can't change your name to "Lindsay Lohan." Courts might just think you are trying to unjustly capitalize on her fame, unless you can prove otherwise.
  • You can't choose a name that is obscene or offensive.
  • You can't choose a name that is a racial slur.

States typically also have different rules. If you're wondering how to legally change your name in your jurisdiction, make sure to check the relevant statutes.

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