1. You don’t need a good reason, just a legal one. You can change your name for any purpose short of breaking the law— and you can do it without a lawyer.
2. Getting hitched? You don’t need a court order to change your name, just your marriage certificate.
3. If you’re simply tired of your old name, go to court and get a new one. You’ll have to fill out some court papers, but they’re fairly simple. The hard part is deciding what you want to be called—will it be sunflower? Just jack?
4. Filing court papers won’t be scary. You’ll probably never even have to appear before a judge.
5. You can choose (almost) any name you want. There are only a few restrictions: Don’t change your name for a fraudulent purpose. Don’t take a famous person’s name. Stay away from names that are overtly offensive. Copyrighted or trademarked names are also off limits—so sorry, you can’t be harry potter. Finally, it’s best to avoid numerals and punctuation—in other words, don’t call yourself “?” or “3.”
6. You can change your name to a single word. If you’ve always wanted to be like Madonna, Now’s your chance. You can’t take her name, but you can choose one word, or even just initials, as your name.
7. You might have to pay a few hundred dollars for the new you. Unless you qualify to change your name as part of another legal proceeding, such as a divorce, the fees may run as high as $500. (twice as much if you hire a lawyer to do the job.)
8. One-stop shopping. If you’re changing genders, some states allow you to change the sex on your birth certificate at the same time you change your name.
9. The one easy thing to get in a divorce is your former name. In most states you can simply ask the judge to make a formal order restoring your name as part of the divorce decree.
10. Don’t keep it a secret. Besides advising agencies and businesses that you’ve changed your name, you’ll want to encourage your family and friends to use only your new name— and be sure to use it consistently yourself to avoid practical, administrative, and personal hassles.