With the proviso that Google Answers should not be seen as taking the
place of proper legal advice, here is what I have been able to find
out about changing names. There does not seem to be any difference as
to whether the change involves a first or middle name or a surname.
You will find a lot of general information on
Here are the main points that are made on that site:
Under Roman law, which in this instance oddly still applies to the
United States, people are allowed to change their name whenever they
unless it is for a fraudulent purpose. Also, you cannot
give yourself the name of a famous person or organization, use
questionable words or include numbers.
There are two equally legitimate ways in which this can be done.
The first is called common usage. This simply means you decide on
your new name and start to use it. This can work, especially in
simpler situations, for example using Mike instead of Michael as a
first name, but it could also cause problems: if you are going to
dramatically change your name (such as, you are going to completely
change your first name), common usage will give you headaches. Will
Citibank really want to put a new name on your credit card account
without having proof that you are indeed the same person? What about
your medical insurance? What about Aunt Tilda's will? Having some sort
of proof really helps.
Therefore, although you are legally entitled to make even a drastic
change in this way, it could cause you some problems. You would need
to assess by yourself, or obtain legal advice, as to whether a common
usage change to your middle name would have the potential to cause
If you want to be really secure about a name change, you need to
choose the second route, which is a formal court process. To change
your name, you will need to find out what paperwork is required by
your state, by asking a lawyer, contacting the court or looking up the
The forms you will need to fill in usually include:
* A petition for change of name
* An order granting change of name.
* A legal backer form.
* A notice of petition to the public, meaning an advertisement in a
* An affidavit of consent by a parent/wife/husband, if applicable.
* An affidavit of service of notification to authorities, necessary if
you are an alien, ex-convict or attorney.
The petition makes sure you meet the requirements, and you'll hand
over your address and a copy of your birth certificate. The remainder
of the papers are similar, but ascertain that others are aware of your
change. The order granting change of name, for example, specifies in
which newspaper you must publish your intent to change your name.
Some of these papers might need to be notarized, by taking them to a
public notary. The court then reviews your case, and, if all goes
well, will issue you an Order Granting Change of Name which is your
Once your name is changed, you will need to inform people about it.
Places you must or should inform include:
* Department of Motor Vehicles
* Social Security Administration
These first two are important, because once you have a new driving
license and social security card, changes to other records will be
* Bureau of Records or Vital Statistics in the state you were born to
either amend your birth certificate or get a new one.
Other places/people that could apply include:
* credit card agencies
* Internal Revenue Service
* utility companies
* your employer
* the post office
* your mother
* stocks/bonds/mutual funds
* retirement plans
* real estate
* professional associations
* the Registrar of Voters
* car registration
* house, car and life insurance
* your will
* other people's wills
* your doctor
* your lawyer
* powers of attorney
* frequent flyer programs
* welfare office
* veteran's administration
* academic institutions
The list comes from the previously cited web site at
The list includes external or internal links in some cases which will
take you to a printable form that you can use for notification
Some places will insist on seeing the documents and/or yourself in
person, while others will accept a telephone call
When sending a letter, be sure to state clearly your new and old name
and explain that you want them interchanged. Enclose a copy of your
court order to prove you're for real.
Also, do not immediately throw away your old identification. It may be
necessary to prove who you once were. Some IDs, like your passport,
may carry an A.K.A. ("also known as"), so you're not completely free
of your original name..
There is a book called How to change your name in California, which
explains the process as applicable in California and includes full
instructions on how to do it as well as all the forms you will need.
It costs $24.47 on the Nolo web site (30% off the list price, which is
USLegalForms.com is one of several websites where you can purchase the
forms you need. Downloadable forms for an adult name change in
California cost $49, but there is a separate set for Los Angeles
County, which costs $59. These need to be printed out on bond paper.
Alternatively, for an extra $10 you can have the forms printed out and
sent to you. For $139, you can do the change through the sites
You fill out a simple, on-line questionnaire and submit it to us. We
will prepare the forms for you using the information you provide.
Forms are completed and returned to you in either electronic format or
regular mail as you specify. Depending on your County and State, forms
are completed within 24-72 hours of your confirmation. Some Counties
may take longer. Forms are completed for you and reviewed by our
Staff attorneys prior to delivery. We prepare the forms and you file
them with the Court. Name change completion services include all
forms necessary to change your name by Court action and are prepared
for your County and State. Instructions are also included.
PLEASE NOTE, the fact I am mentioning this site does NOT mean any
endorsement on my part, since I have not used it and do not know
anyone else who has. The site is, however, also useful because you
can get a preview of the forms you need in pdf format on the site.
To get the information, go to
Select the State of interest. I selected California for what follows
Choose the type of name change you need, and click on Information and
Preview to view the forms.
The same page also provides a link to Law Summary, where you can see
the relevant statute, in this case California Code of Civil Procedure.
Part 3. Of Special Proceedings of a Civil Nature. Title 8. Change
(alternatively you can view this on the State of California web site
Here are some extracts from the statute:
All applications for change of names shall be made to the superior
court of the county where the person whose name is proposed to be
The petition or pleading shall specify the place of birth and
residence of the person, his or her present name, the name proposed,
and the reason for the change of name, and shall, if neither parent of
the person is living, name, as far as known to the person proposing
the name change, the near relatives of the person, and their place of
The court makes a public notice of the intended name change, which
specifies the date of the hearing (4-8 weeks after the notice). If
anyone objects to the name change, they have to appear at the hearing.
The notice is published once a week for 4 consecutive weeks in a
newspaper of general circulation to be designated in the order
published in the county. If no newspaper of general circulation is
published in the county, a copy of the order to show cause shall be
posted by the clerk of the court in three of the most public places in
the county in which the court is located, for a like period.
If no one makes an objection, the court can grant the name change
order without a hearing.
I hope this is the information you are seeking, but please ask for
further clarification if required.
Search strategy on Google: change name legal California