Easy As 1, 2, 3, 4: How to Legally Change Your Name

Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson PLLC
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From time to time a person may want to change their name—maybe their first name, or maybe their full legal name. Maybe it is for a serious and legitimate reason (perhaps they have married), or maybe it is for a more whimsical reason (Instagram stardom?). If you go by what you see on TV, you might expect this to be a difficult process filled with red-tape bureaucracy. Turns out, it is not.

If you are 18 years or older, the King County court system makes it pretty simple. All you have to do is submit a form and go before a judge for approval. Here are some basic steps for you to take if you are planning to make a general name change:

  1. Fill out a Petition. There is a one-page form that you will need to complete and submit to the court. The form asks for basic information about yourself, your proposed new name, and the reason for your proposed name change.

Why do you need to provide a reason for your name change? The judge needs to ensure that you are not trying to commit some act of fraud or escape some type of liability. For example, if you are drowning in debt and are hoping to change your name so you can avoid your debtors, the judge will not allow you to change your name. For similar (and obvious) reasons, the form will also ask whether you are a sex offender or under the jurisdiction of the Department of Corrections. Ultimately, if you do not have a nefarious purpose for changing your name, there should not be a problem

Bear in mind that there is a separate form if you want to change a child’s name; i.e., someone under 18 years old. Both forms can be found on the King County courthouse website.

  1. Location. You need to figure out where you can have your name changed. In King County, there are eight locations available: the Auburn Courthouse, Bellevue Courthouse, Burien Courthouse, Issaquah Courthouse, Maleng Regional Justice Center, Redmond Courthouse, Seattle Courthouse, and the Shoreline Courthouse.

Note that these locations may have slightly different protocols for how to complete the process. For example, some may require you to bring a photo ID with you, but other locations will not. You can always call a particular location if you have any question about having all of the materials you need.

  1. Payment and Scheduling. It will cost a total of $201.50 to have your name changed. Notably, the way you pay will affect when you can go before the judge and have your name changed.

If you pay with cash (or an approved voucher from King County), you can have a hearing before the judge on any name-change calendar within 90 days. But if you pay with a credit or debit card (or some other way), your form will be processed immediately and the hearing will be set no earlier than 30 days after making the payment.

If you are not comfortable filing the form in person due to COVID-19, you can pay online. Of course, this means you will be paying with a debit or credit card, and you will not be able to have a hearing with the judge for a minimum of 30 days.

  1. Going to Court. You will have to be present at the courthouse for your hearing before the judge. Unfortunately, there is no online option here; but this should be a quick and painless hearing. You do not need a lawyer present with you.

Once the court adjudicates your name change, you will have the option to purchase a certified copy of the signed order by the judge officially changing your name. It will take approximately 6-8 weeks to record and process your name change with the King County Auditor.

  1. Next Steps? To be clear, this will only affect your name. I mention this because this process is entirely separate from having your social security number or ID changed. If you wish to change your birth certificate, you will need to send certified copies of all paperwork to the Washington State Department of Health in Olympia, Washington.

In addition, your name change is oftentimes just the beginning of the process. You will want to update all of your personal accounts, including:

  • Social Security
  • Department of Licensing
  • Voter Registration
  • Passport
  • Employment Information
    • W2
    • Insurance
    • 401k
    • Contact information
  • Bank Information
  • Credit Cards
  • Loans & Investment Accounts

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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