What’s in a Name?

MAGGIE L. SUTTON ESQ. e1495131554211
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What’s in a Name?

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Your name is who you are – it’s your identity.

There was an article in the Columbus Dispatch recently regarding name changes and the various reasons why people legally change their name – marriage, divorce, to escape creditors of a person with a name similar to yours.

In the article, Bruce Lansky, author of several books about names, estimated about 50,000 people change their name each year.

If you change your name, chances are you think about updating your driver’s license and bank accounts to reflect your new name.  You should remember to update your other legal documents, too.

If you have estate planning documents in place, updating them to reflect your current legal name is important.  Jane Doe created a Will five years ago, but if Jane Doe is now Janet Doe or Jane Smith, it is important that her Will and other documents be updated accordingly.

A consideration some people may not think about is to have other people update their estate planning documents, as well.  For example, many people name their children as agents or beneficiaries in their estate planning documents.  If a child changes his or her legal name, the parents should update their estate planning documents to prevent confusion and unnecessary hassle in the future.

A common problem specifically arises with the Durable Financial Power of Attorney.  Nothing in Ohio law requires a bank or financial institution to accept a POA document or allow the agent to act under it.

In our experience, banks can be picky about names in the document matching the individual’s driver’s license.  Even aside from a name change, we have had clients tell us that the bank rejected the POA because the POA document did not include a middle initial, but the person’s driver’s license did.  Given a bank’s rejection over this minor detail, changing a full legal name on the document is important.

Ownership of real estate can also be affected by a name change.  Although in most instances, title inconsistencies can be addressed at the time of sale with the title agency, changing your name on your home title should be addressed at the time of the name change.

As the Dispatch article suggests, there are companies that help you gather the necessary documentation to effectuate your name change.  MissNowMrs and HitchSwitch are just two examples of these services. While these services provide you with the necessary forms to notify Social Security, update your passport, get a new driver’s license, change your voter registration, and notify your creditors, they likely cannot provide forms to update your estate plan and beneficiary designations.

We advise our clients to review their estate plan every 5 to 7 years, but we recommend reviewing and updating those documents sooner if a major life event occurs, including a name change for them or someone named in their documents.

Changing your name is no small event, and making sure that all of your legal documents reflect your new name is no easy task, either.  When you take on a new identity, don’t leave your estate plan behind.