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Marriage Checklist – Legal Paperwork After Getting Married

So you made it through the marriage license process and got married? Congratulations! Now you are legally one family unit in the eyes of the government, but not in the eyes of anyone else . . . yet. Whether you are heterosexual newlyweds, or same-sex newlyweds, paperwork will be required to join your accounts, names and any benefits or legal rights you wish to share or bestow upon your spouse. Here are some of the most common legal paperwork needs after getting married:

Changing Your Name After Marriage

There has been much debate in the media recently about spouses changing names after marriage; should women take their husband’s last name, forever abandoning their own family name? Should couples avoid the complicated and confusing hyphenated name for the sake of their future children? Is a name change even required of newly married couples? Name changes that occur due to marriage must be applied for simultaneously with the marriage license application. However, some states allow alternatives to the traditional name swap. For example, in California, you can change a middle name, hyphenate a last name, or simply add a last name to your current name. (If you did not change your name with your marriage application, you can still apply for a name change, but it will require a formal petition and hearing at court).

But that’s just the first step to complete the name change process. To make it official, you’ll need to apply for a new Social Security card with the updated information. You’ll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate with the raised seal showing your new last name to get the process rolling, so order a couple of certified copies of your marriage certificate when filing your marriage license.

Next, you’re going to have to brave the lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license (unless you live in a state like California, where you can make an appointment at the DMV). Check your state’s specific requirements before you go, but in most instances you’ll need to bring your old license, your marriage certificate, and your new Social Security card. And if you like to travel, updating your passport right away is a good idea too.

Once those steps are completed, you can work through changing your name everywhere else. Think of it like moving, if you’d notify a company of your address change, you should notify them of your name change. The following is a list of common items you’ll want to change your name on:

  • Banking information
  • Checks
  • Credit Cards
  • Passport
  • Student Loans
  • Vehicle titles
  • Mortgages
  • Voter registration
  • Health insurance
  • Insurance cards (auto, home etc)
  • Utility companies
  • Gym membership
  • Social media profiles like Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest etc.
  • Home address labels
  • Apartment rental contracts
  • Payroll – Talk to HR
  • Email address
  • Business cards
  • Email signature

Financial Changes After Marriage

Getting married changes how you file taxes. You are considered married for the entire calendar year of your wedding, regardless of whether you married on January 1 or December 31, according to the IRS. You have the option to file jointly or separately; have a discussion with your spouse and your tax professional about your options for filing, depending on your individual circumstances.

You will also likely want to change any bank accounts, retirement plans, securities and life insurance policies to name your spouse as the beneficiary for all proceeds.

The Future

While it’s not the easiest thing to talk about, now that you are a married unit, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for the unexpected. Consider working with an lawyer to create a will that will best benefit your spouse and any future assets or children you may have within the marriage. You may also want contact a family law attorney to adopt your spouse’s children from another marriage.