Advertiser Disclosure

Life Events

The Financial Consequences of Changing Your Name

Wedding

Your wedding is around the corner, and you take a romantic date to the Register of Deeds office to get your marriage certificate. As you walk towards the windowless building, you realize that you must finalize the decision to change your name.

Will you take your spouse’s name, hyphenate your names, keep your name or change it to something new?

If you change your name, are you stuck with it forever? Are you going to spend money on new IDs? Will your credit score suffer? Will you have trouble selling your car or house?

Before you change your name, these are the things you need to know.

Changing your name isn’t always free

If you change your name at the start of your marriage, your name change comes free with the cost of obtaining a marriage license. You will show your signed and sealed marriage certificate as evidence of your name change.

Similarly, if you change your name in an uncontested divorce, most states allow you to add a name change provision within the divorce complaint. The judge’s seal and signature on the divorce decree provide proof of your name change.

Outside of marriage and divorce, changing your name is more arduous. You must file a petition for a name change at the courthouse in the county where you live. Within the petition, you’ll state pending criminal charges and that you aren’t seeking to avoid unpaid debts. You may also need to provide letters from character witnesses.

At that point, you’ll pay a filing fee that can range from $150 to $350. On top of the filing fee, you may need to pay attorney’s fees and courtroom fees before you complete your legal name change. Fees and processes differ in every county.

[How to Effectively Combine Money as a New Couple]

How do I inform institutions of my new name?

Once you legally change your name, you must provide evidence of your new name to the Social Security Administration. This step needs to be complete before you file your taxes. If the name on your tax filing differs from the name on record the SSA, the IRS may delay processing your filing and sending your tax return.

Once you’ve gotten a new Social Security Card, you can update the following:

  • Driver’s license
  • Employer documents
  • Utility companies
  • Telecommunications providers (phone, internet, cable)
  • Car title
  • Home ownership deed
  • Will
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank accounts (don’t forget online banks)
  • Credit cards
  • Mortgages
  • Car loans
  • Any other debts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Health savings accounts
  • Retirement accounts
  • Pensions
  • Voter registration
  • Doctor’s offices
  • Passport
  • Rental contract
  • Other people’s wills
  • Frequent flier programs
  • Other points programs

These changes are free and easy to make. Just present evidence of your name change and fill out a form specific to that institution.

[Money Lies that Could Ruin Your Relationship]

What if I forget to change my name somewhere?

Forgetting to change your name on an account isn’t a major issue, but you will incur some headaches down the road. For example, I couldn’t buy new car insurance until I changed my name with my existing insurer. In order to present evidence of prior coverage, my name change had to go through first.

You should expect to file additional paperwork when you refinance or sell a house if you keep your former name on the deed or mortgage.

A friend had to fill out a name change form for a pension from a job that she left 37 years earlier. She didn’t realize her mistake until she received a check made out to her maiden name.

Whether you’ve forgotten for four months or four decades, filing forgotten paperwork is all that is required to fix mistakes and re-quire old assets.

What won’t change if I change my name?

Your assets and liabilities remain yours if you change your name.

You still own your bank accounts, houses, cars and more, even if you forget to change your name on the account or title. Down the road, you may have to fill out paperwork to legally sell or withdraw money, but you remain the legal owner.

Likewise, your liabilities follow you when your name changes. Despite your name change, you must continue to pay current loans and credit card balances, and your credit history will remain unchanged. It will continue to show positive information (like on time payments) and negative information like debts in collections and judgments against you.

When it comes to assets and debts, you will not see long-term consequences from changing your name.

[Getting Your Money Straight After Divorce]

What about my career?

The biggest consequence to consider before executing your name change is whether it will change your earning potential. If your name has brand equity, you may find that it’s easier to advance in your career if you keep your name.

I intended to use my married name at work, but to keep my access rights, I had to keep my email address, which includes my maiden name. To avoid confusion, I continue to use my maiden name at work.

However, you can use your name change to your advantage. Sometimes well known public figures change their names, and they (and their marketers) find a way to make a splash with the new name, and use the opportunity to advance their careers.

Whether you want a big splash or a quiet transition, you can handle name change if you have a solid name transition plan in place.

Should you change your name?

Once you know about the hassle and costs associated with changing your name, it’s easier to decide if changing your name is right for you. I changed my name over three years ago, and I am glad that I did. However, my name changing adventure wasn’t quite complete. While writing this post, I learned that I had three accounts still set up under my maiden name. It took ten minutes, six sheets of paper and three stamps for me to fix the accounts.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here

Advertiser Disclosure

Life Events, Reviews

Comparing the Best Renters Insurance

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 3.35.54 PM

Recently, a pipe exploded into my friend’s bedroom. In his version of the story, Niagara Falls gushed from the wall while he raced to move valuables into the hall. Despite his efforts, furniture, video games, textbooks and speakers were damaged beyond repair. He laughed as he told me the story, so I felt it was okay to ask, “You had renters insurance?”

To which he replied, “It’s the best $150 that I’ve spent this year.”

After his claim was processed, my friend’s insurance company paid him $3,000 to replace the items he lost.

Renters insurance protected him, and he can tell his story with laughter; that is one of the many reasons that I recommend that every renter should carry renters insurance.

What is Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance protects renters from financial loss if their possessions are destroyed, if someone is injured in their rental unit, or if they relocate due to a disaster.

Contrary to popular belief, a landlord’s insurance policy does not provide financial protection for renters, so renters must protect themselves and their possessions. Renters insurance provides affordable protection for renters (around $12 per month for $30,000 of coverage) for renters and their possessions.

Who Needs Renters Insurance?

Anyone who does not carry a homeowner’s insurance policy should carry renters insurance. This includes:

  • Members of the armed services
  • Residents at care facilities
  • Adults living with their parents
  • Students who aren’t covered by their parents’ policy

Unless you’re covered by another policy, or you live out of a backpack, you need renters insurance.

Top Companies For Renters Insurance

Out of twelve top insurance providers, the top five were determined by price, ease of obtaining and understanding a quote, and a low number of complaints on the consumer affairs website.

On these dimensions the top insurance providers were:

  • State Farm – The low price leader has an easy online quote process, high quality customer service and quick claim recovery, which made State Farm our top pick for renters insurance.
  • Travelers – Travelers insurance made it easy to itemize (or endorse) common valuables including electronics, furs and more. The itemization process along with their competitive premium prices and no monthly fees put them in the second position.
  • Allstate – Allstate’s easy to use online platform, low monthly fees and competitive prices, along with first time buyer tools and high quality customer service allowed Allstate to take the number three spot.
  • SafeCo – SafeCo’s competitive rates, easy to use online platform, and impressive bundling discounts allowed SafeCo to snag our fourth spot.
  • Amica – Amica’s customer service, competitive rates, and complete lack of fees pushed Amica into our fifth position.

An honorable mention goes to USAA for making it easy for deployed military to cover their possessions while they are out of the country.

Check out our comparison matrix at the bottom of this article to see how all the insurance companies stacked up.

How to Compare Renters Insurance

Before shopping for renters insurance, determine the amount of coverage you need. Coverage has three components: personal property, personal liability and loss of use. You will need to look at all three of these separately.

Personal property coverage:

Personal property coverage will cover the cost of replacing your possessions if they are damaged or destroyed. Some companies have replacement cost coverage (what it costs to buy everything new), and some have actual value coverage (depreciation of assets is included). I recommend seeking replacement cost coverage since you will need to buy everything afresh if it is destroyed.

You should obtain enough personal property coverage to replace everything you own if it were destroyed by some disaster. To do this, you need to estimate the value of your possessions. The easiest estimating tool that I used came from Allstate, but all companies have some calculator on their website to help you estimate the value of the possessions. Using the estimator, I found my family’s possessions are worth $30,000, which is the amount of personal property coverage we need.

Itemizing valuable items:

Because my family and I don’t own jewelry, fine art, instruments outdoor structures or memorabilia, we have straightforward coverage, but if you own high value items, you will need to itemize your policy. You will have to call an insurance agent directly to itemize your insurance, so I don’t recommend itemizing until you’ve decided on an insurance policy.

If you’re not sure whether or not you should itemize something take a look at the screenshot from Travelers insurance that shows the types of possessions that most people itemize. (Note: electronics are covered under your basic personal possessions coverage).

Renters Insurance 1

Personal Liability Coverage:

Personal liability covers your injury or property damage to others caused by your negligence.

Most people opt for the minimum personal liability coverage ($100,000), but two groups will require higher liability coverage. Renters who carry an umbrella insurance policy (which protects against personal lawsuits beyond the liability limits of auto, home or renters insurance) will be required by their umbrella insurance policy to carry at least $250,000 of personal liability coverage (check with your policy provider to know the exact amount). People who own $250,000 in assets outside of their retirement accounts should also consider higher coverage.

Loss of use coverage:

Loss of use covers the costs that you will incur if your home becomes uninhabitable. Typically, you will need this to cover your hotel and meal costs for about a month (enough time to find a new place to live) if you’re forced to relocate.

Generally, hotel accommodations run between $3000-$4500 over the course of a month, and eating out adds another $1500 to your costs for the month. For most renters, $5000-$6000 will be sufficient loss of use coverage. If you live in a high cost of living area, you may want to add another $2000 to your coverage.

Now Start Shopping

Once you’ve determined your need, it’s time to shop around and find the company that best suits your needs. I recommend requesting an online quote from four or five different sources including:

You could also consider working with insurance specialists, who can pull up multiple offers simultaneously. Typically, this will yield decent rates and coverage, but is only recommended if you have straightforward needs. Comparison-shopping is worth extra time to make sure that you are getting the coverage you need at the best possible price.

Requesting a Quote

Requesting a quote requires you to enter a “quote portal” from the company’s website.

Renters Insurance 2

After entering the portal, you’ll provide personal information, information about the property you are renting (including its safety features), and information about pets or trampolines. Filling out these forms is best done on a computer rather than a tablet or mobile device.

Some companies (The Hartford, Shelter Insurance, Farm Bureau Financial Services), require you to follow up with an agent directly rather than issuing a quote online. These conversations take anywhere from 5-10 minutes, and the agents will send you an emailed quote after the fact.

What Questions Should I Ask?

After you get a quote you should ask these questions:

  • Which company offers me the best price?
  • Will I incur fees for paying each month instead of paying up front?
  • If my things are not in my rental unit, am I still covered? (The typical answer to this is that your policy will cover damages up to 10% of your policy, but USAA, Liberty Mutual, and Travelers Insurance have more generous options available)
  • Do I need to itemize anything?
  • Can I keep this policy if I move?
  • Will this policy cover items for my home business? (Generally up to $2500)

Allstate made it easy to find the answers in their coverage detail portals, but most companies required talking with an agent to answer detailed coverage questions. Be prepared for discussions with agents by having your online quote number and your questions ready to go.

Buyer Beware!

The companies that I recommend had few negative reviews, but they aren’t perfect. When buying a renters insurance policy be aware of these things:

  • Claims related to theft or vandalism required a police report to be processed. These claims seem to be the most likely to be rejected.
  • Some companies charge a fee for paying in monthly installments rather than upfront. The fee is between $1-$5 per installation.
  • Some companies charge a policy cancellation fee though they will refund the remainder of your policy.
  • Outdoor structures such as carports and sheds may not be covered. Ask your insurance agent specifically about your coverage if this is a concern.

Comparison-of-Prices-and-FeesComparison of Policies and Intangibles

Hannah Rounds of Unplanned Finance

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah here