Social Security Name Change in Massachusetts

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Changing your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a multi-step process to ensure your legal name is correct by submitting several important documents, including your birth certificate, to SSA and other agencies.

Your new legal name will also need to be updated not only on your birth certificate but on other key identity documents. The name change process can seem somewhat overwhelming at first, but it gets a lot simpler once you’ve broken down exactly which legal documents to include and which government agencies to contact.

For some people who are changing their name in Massachusetts, a court order is necessary. If you are only changing your name due to a recent marriage, you can usually skip a court order. You can do this if you give proof of your marriage to the local Social Security office, along with a current driver’s license.

If you do not need a court order, your first step is to make a checklist. The next step is to get the correct forms from SSA and complete them. You’ll net need to complete forms for Massachusetts agencies before finally contacting federal agencies about your new name.

The Basic Steps

While you are changing your legal name, be patient and include all relevant information. Even minor details like your middle name or a current photo ID can become a problem if you forget to include them. For most people, there are only five steps although in Massachusetts some residents will also need a court order.

The steps are:

  1. Obtain a Court Order (optional)
  2. Make a Checklist of Name Change Documents and Agencies
  3. Gather all Original Documents and Certified Copies for SSA
  4. Complete and Submit Form SS-5
  5. Complete Forms for Massachusetts Agencies
  6. Contact Federal Agencies

Step 1: Obtain a Court Order (Optional)

This is a process with several steps, but for many people (those who’ve just recently married) it isn’t necessary. If you are changing your name for any other reason, you’ll need to go through the legal process of filing paperwork and appearing in court. We outline the process here, but you should check your County District Clerk’s Office for a full explanation.

To obtain a court order, you will first fill out all the correct forms (there are three: one if you have a criminal record, one if you do not; a third if you can’t afford court costs). Next, you’ll get your fingerprints taken, and after that only if you have a felony or sex offender conviction you’ll do more paperwork. This will require a trip to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Make copies of all paperwork, then file a petition online or at the district clerk’s office, where you should also get information about how to prepare for your court hearing. The next step is to go to your scheduled hearing. The judge will sign your Order and you will make copies of all documents. Next, you’ll begin the process of changing your name with the Social Security Administration.

Step 2:  Make a Checklist of Name Change Documents and Agencies

In this step, you’ll make a list of current government documents that include your name and each agency you’ll need to contact. If you are not a U.S. citizen, the process is somewhat simpler.

Writing down the following documents will help you organize the task of changing your name with the state of Massachusetts and the federal government.

  • Social Security card / Social Security Administration (SSA)
  • A copy of the Order to change your name (step 1, if applicable)
  • U.S. birth certificate / {State Birth Certificate Authority}
  • U.S. passport / U.S. State Department
  • Marriage certificate and/or license, and divorce decree
  • Massachusetts driver’s license or Massachusetts state ID card / {State Driver’s License Authority}
  • Voter registration card / County Voter Registrar

For non-citizens or naturalized citizens, you should contact the Social Security Administration for new or replacement cards

  • For non-citizens, a consular report of birth is necessary to update your birth certificate
  • For naturalized citizens, a certificate of naturalization and identification card is necessary to update your SSN and get a new ID card. You should also locate your certificate of citizenship.

Step 3: Gather All Original Documents and Certified Copies for SSA

If you don’t have every required document, get as many as you can of the original documents.

This step requires locating your original documents that include your prior legal name, or ordering copies when applicable. All documents should be current, and it’s especially important to have a current driver’s license as it will include a recent photo.

Most people change their legal names after getting married, and for this reason it’s important to have both your marriage certificate and marriage license.

Step 4: Complete and Submit Form SS-5

Form SSA-5 is used for replacement and new social security cards. Once you’ve printed the form, you are ready to begin filing it out. This form is not long but does require accurate information. It gives detailed instructions, but should you get stuck at any point you can call the Social Security information at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) for assistance.

Do not leave any sections blank. It is better to write “not available” or “NA” than leave a space blank. Per SSA instructions, use a blue or black ink pen.

If you do not have a computer available, many people ask a friend for help or use a local library.

You can either mail the completed form SS-5, along with your original Social Security card and court order (if applicable), or take form SS-5 (plus documents) to your local Social Security office. Some people are more comfortable going to the local office in person, and remember you can call ahead to make an appointment. Sitting down with an SSA worker can help answer any questions you have, and you do not need to be concerned about your original documents getting lost in the mail–even though that is unlikely.

If you mail your SS-5 and required documents, it’s okay to send by registered letter for extra peace of mind but this is not necessary. Be sure that if you must submit a court order, you are using a certified copy.

Step 5: Complete Forms for Massachusetts Agencies

The next forms to complete are to update your information for your driver’s license (the {State Driver’s License Authority}), birth certificate ({State Birth Certificate Authority}), and voter registration card (County Voter Registrar). Of these, your driver’s license should be your first priority, but it’s important to get an original copy of your birth certificate as soon as you can. If you do not update your voter registration card, you will be denied your voting rights next time you try to vote.

Step 6: Contact Federal Agencies

There are two other important places to legally change your name, and they are both federal (national) agencies. First, you will want to update your Medicare information (if you are over 65 or disabled) with the Social Security Administration so they can issue you a new Medicare and health insurance card.

You will also need to change your name with the U.S. Department of State on your U.S. Passport. Without a passport, you will be unable to travel across the border, including into Mexico and back. To contact these agencies, go online and download the appropriate forms or call for assistance. You’ll only need your date of birth and SSN to speak with someone about your situation.

Name Change is a Big Life Event

A legal name change is a major life event and requires considerable effort. If you are dedicated, however, you will find using a checklist and taking each necessary step will lead to success.

Changing your name legally isn’t a quick and easy process–especially if it is for reasons other than marriage. If you have a criminal record, it’s even more work so before deciding to change your name in Massachusetts, you should decide if you are willing to go extra the mile.

It’s important to also change your credit cards, library card, and other ID you use on a regular basis. Each name change has to be done separately with the appropriate issuing agency.

Finalizing a completed name change takes effort but if you fail to notify government agencies, you’ll soon find yourself running into practical and, potentially, legal problems. Any time you change jobs or conduct business requiring your driver’s license, birth certificate, or other government issued document, you’ll be unable to prove who you are. Take the process seriously, and break it down into small steps.