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Change in Marital Status: How Do I Change My Name?

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 11/8/2011

For those who are recently married or divorced, issues about selling your home if your name has changed may be a worry. The legal requirements to modify your loan documents and title can be provided by your lender or an attorney.

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    Legal Name Changes

    Name Change There are several reasons why a person may change their name. In most cases, women change their name when they are married or when they are divorced. Men may change their names if they are victims of identity theft or for other legal reasons such as taking the name of a step-parent.

    There are host of items that must be updated when someone changes their name including their passport, driver's license, credit cards, social security card, licenses that might be required for work (such as nursing license, plumbing license, etc.). With all of these items that require updating, it is often easy to overlook the requirement of changing a name on a mortgage or home deed. Once a person has changed their name and then decides to sell a home, they may need to find out the answer to the question "can you sell your home if your name has changed". The answer to this is that you can sell your house, but there will be some legal requirements that must be met in order to complete the transaction.

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    Property Deeds and Name Changes

    deed For those who are interested in changing their name on a property deed, in many cases, they will be advised to not do so until such time as they plan to sell their home. The reason behind this is that many municipalities charge a transfer fee of up to one-hundred and fifty dollars to make this type of change. Changing the name on the deed and mortgage does not necessarily need to be done until such time as the mortgage is fully paid off or if the home is being sold. Since there are specific legal documents which are required by the seller at the closing, this is when most people discover that they forgot about asking their lender or attorney about a name change.

    Documents that may be required

    While each lending institution and recording office for deeds may require slightly different certifications, there are specific documents that will be required by all financial institutions to prove that a perosn who has changed their name is using a new name legally. Generally these documents will include:

    Mortgage Deed Certified marrige certificate - when a name change is related to marriage, a certified copy of the marriage certificate is generally required. The lender (and recorder of deeds) will likely require that the marriage certificate show the old name and the new name;

    Certified court documents - if a name change is due to legal changes resulting from a divorce or other legal proceeding, the requirements will include a certified court document. It is important to check with the proper legal authorities to find out if this document has specific date requirements (that is must it be certified within a certain number of days);

    Photo identification - regardless of whether all of the legal requirements are met, the home seller must produce a photo identification. It is helpful if this document already contains the "new" legal name.

    All of these documents will be required to show that the deed is being properly transferred to the new owner.

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    Name Changes Are Not Deal Breakers

    Home buyers do not care what name the title of the property is in until the mortgage loan is signed and the deed of the property is signed over to them. While it may be helpful to contact a lender and let them know about a name change, unless there is a requirement by the lender that the name be changed prior to sale, there is little benefit in making the change. There may be other legal considerations when you are considering changing your name on a property deed. Contact your lender for additional information if needed, but once you have found a buyer for your home, even if the name on the deed has changed, once you produce the necessary legal documents the closing can proceed.

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