Many Massachusetts residents are unaware that, as an adult, a person can change his or her name, legally, for absolutely any reason, so long as the reason is considered valid by the Probate and Family Court (this really means that a person cannot seek a name change for fraudulent reasons).
Not just surnames, either; people can change their first name, middle name, last name, any variation of the three, or all three. A Change of Name Petition (i.e. the form used to request that the Court allow you to change your name) must be filed to change a name
When Is It Right to Change My Name?
You can change your name for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Wanting a step-parent’s last name;
- To match a last name to that of a parent or child’s;
- For show business purposes.
Many people change their first and middle names, too. The reason can be as simple as disliking the sound of their given first name.
How to Change Your Name in Massachusetts?
Here is a step-by-step process of changing your name in Massachusetts:
Step One: complete a Change of Name Petition
A Change of Name Petition is the official form used and required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Trial Department Probate and Family Court for any name change request. The form requires you to disclose your current name, their address, and date and place of birth. Here on our platform, we have sample forms for your review.
Step Two: other required documents
When you file a change of name petition, you're required to file supporting documents with the original petition. Always required is your birth certificate, which you can obtain from the Town Clerk or City Clerk in the town or city in which you were born, for a modest fee. It is important to note that the birth certificate must be the “long form” and it must be certified to be accepted by the Court.
Step Three: filing and fees
Once you complete the Petition and attach all of the supporting documents, you will pay a filing fee and file the packet with the Probate and Family Court in the County you live in. The filing fees for a Petition in Massachusetts is $150.00, plus a surcharge of $15.00 and a $15.00 citation fee, for a total cost of $180.00.
Step Four: notice by publication
Public notice of the Petition generally must be given by publication. Many would say that publication is the most complicated part of the process, although publication is no more difficult than placing a classified ad in a local newspaper.
Step Five: the court hearing
For most Petitioners, completing publication is the hard part. Once you return the citation and clipping, usually all you must do is wait for the return date on the citation to expire. The purpose of the return date is simply to provide the public the opportunity to object to the name change after publication has been completed.
If, after public notice is proven, the return date has expired, and no one objects to the change of name, then the Court issues a Decree establishing the new name, administratively. There is no need for a hearing.
Generally, a hearing is only required if someone files a written objection to the name change or if the judge reviewing the Petition identifies a concern with the name being chosen.
Step Six: informing other entities
If the Court issues a Decree legally allowing you to change your name, you must arrange to update your information with various entities such as the Social Security Administration, Registry of Motor Vehicles, passport agency, credit card companies, utility companies, etc., to effectuate the name change.
Massachusetts allows an adult to change their name for any reason as long as it is not for a fraudulent or illegal purpose. If you marry or divorce, your marriage certificate or divorce judgment are all you need to change your last name to or from your spouse's last name. In all other situations, you need to go through a court procedure at Probate and Family Court to change your name.