Changing your name: The legal ramifications

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There is no legal requirement that a person change their surname and take on that of their spouse or partner when they marry or enter into a civil union.  The only legal requirement is that a person can only be known by one surname.  Therefore, if you wish to change your name because of marriage or civil union it will be necessary to update your name on all of your legal documentation. 

Similarly, if you choose to adopt a new name for other reasons, then in addition to filling out a name change by statutory declaration so that your new name is noted on your birth certificate, all of your legal documentation will have to be updated.

Property Titles
Do you own a property?  If so, you will be registered as the proprietor on the certificate of title for that property.  If you change your name, you will have to register this name change on the title of that property so you are correctly identified as the owner.  To do this, you will need to sign an authority and instruction form (A & I), which is a form authorising your lawyers to register the change online. 

If your name has changed because of marriage or civil union, you will need to bring in your original marriage or civil union certificate so your lawyer can make a certified copy to attach to the A & I as well as photo identification (eg your passport or drivers licence), either in your maiden name or married name.  You will then have to sign a statutory declaration stating that your name has changed because of marriage or civil union and that you are one and the same person as that registered on the title of your property. 

If you have changed your name for any other reason, you will also need to bring in your name change certificate, and photo identification, and complete the same statutory declaration.

If you have a mortgage on your property, your lawyer will need to get the consent of the mortgagee (the bank or other lender) to the registration of the change of name on the title of your property.  Banks are generally agreeable to this without further documentation required. 

If you do not register this name change, complications can arise when you come to sell your property, refinance your existing loan, or if you pass away.

Company Directors
Are you a director of a company?  If so, you will need to register your change of name on the Companies Office register or authorise your lawyer to do so on your behalf.  A simple resolution will need to be signed by all of the directors of the company, even if the only directors are you and your spouse or partner.  Your lawyer will need to certify a copy of your marriage, civil union, or name change certificate to keep on record and attach to the resolution.

The Companies Office register is important to keep updated as authoritative problems may arise for you and the company if your name on the register differs from the name that you use in everyday life.

Company Shareholders
Are you a shareholder of your company?  If you are a shareholder of a large company (eg: Telecom), you will need to write a letter to the directors of the company and inform them of your change of name, attaching a certified copy of your marriage, civil union, or name change certificate.  The directors of the company will then make note of the name change when they file their annual report, and change your details on the Companies Office register. 

If you are a shareholder of a small company (for example you and your spouse or partner or your trust are the only directors and shareholders), simple resolutions can be passed by the directors authorising your lawyer to make the necessary changes online.

Trusts
Are you a trustee of a family trust?  If so, all of the trustees of your trust will need to sign a Deed of Name Change agreeing that from the date that the deed is signed, you will be known by your new name on all future trust documents.  In this deed, the trustees will also agree to sign all the necessary documentation to register the name change on any property owned by the trust (including shares, bank accounts, etc).  If your trust owns your family home then the same steps set out in the above paragraph on certificates of title will need to be completed.

If in the future your trust purchases a property and you need finance to help with the purchase, or if you need to refinance your existing loan, the bank often requires a copy of the trust deed so it can identify the trustees.  If you haven’t completed the necessary documentation, and if you have approached the bank using say your married name, but this name is not recorded on the trust deed, this can cause delays.  The Deed of Name Change can be attached to the Trust Deed to avoid this and is clear evidence of your identification.

Are you a beneficiary of a family trust?  If so, a simple deed should be drafted notifying the trustees of that trust that you have legally changed your name and that you are the same person referred to in the trust deed.  Again, a certified copy of your marriage, civil union, or name change certificate will be attached to the deed as evidence of this and kept alongside the trust deed.  This can prevent delays in the future should the trustees decide to make a distribution to you from the trust.

Your Will
It is also important to consider reviewing your will if you marry, enter into a civil union, or otherwise change your name.  If you marry or enter into a civil union, and you had a will before doing so, your will becomes void unless it specifically states that it was made in contemplation of your marriage or civil union to your spouse or partner.

If the name used in your will is different from the name you commonly used prior to your death, this will make the process of administering your estate more complicated and time consuming (and therefore may be more expensive for the beneficiaries named in your will).  If you have changed your name for whatever reason, your will should be updated.  Your lawyer can make the simple change for you whilst you are alive at a fraction of the cost of tidying this up after your death.

Making the necessary changes to all of your legal documents soon after you marry, enter into a civil union, or otherwise change your name, will be a lot easier for you and your family, rather than trying to clean up your affairs when you are under time pressures, or after you have passed away. 

When you marry or enter into a civil union, it is also a good time for you (and your spouse or partner) to review all of your affairs, as both of your legal obligations and liabilities can be affected by this change in your status.