How to Change Your Marital Status

married man image by Georgios Alexandris from

Updating your marital status is basically a two-pronged attack. First, you have to go through the process of legally changing your name, if you've decided on that route post-marriage. Secondly, you'll have to contact a whole pile of important organizations, from your bank to the IRS, to let them know that you're officially hitched.

The process isn't anybody's idea of a good time and can often be tedious, but once everything's officially updated, you'll reap benefits such as additional exemptions and increased standard deductions on your yearly taxes, which can put major money in your pocket.

The Name Change

Changing your name, if you choose to do so, doesn't change your marital status by itself, but it can be an important part of obtaining the legal documents you'll need to prove your new status down the line.

It all starts with your marriage license or a certified copy of it. Once you have it, visit the Social Security Administration's website to apply for an up-to-date Social Security card reflecting your shiny new name. Next, you'll have to march down to your local DMV to get a license with your new moniker. Don't forget to bring your old license, certified marriage certificate and your updated social security card.

Tax Status

After your Social Security card and driver's license, changing your tax status is the most "official" marital update you make.

When tax season rolls around, your marital status on December 31 determines whether you can file as married for the year in question. If you file as married, you can generally choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly with or separately from your spouse, with the former usually offering plenty of lucrative benefits. To see if your new marital status will affect your tax bracket, use the free online IRS Withholding Calculator.

Other Updates

Now that the most important organizations are up to date on your marital status, it's time to fill in the rest. Your marriage certificate and refreshed Social Security card and driver's license should be more than enough proof for all the places you'll need to notify, which include:

  • Your employer
  • Your bank
  • The post office
  • Landlord and mortgage companies
  • Health care providers
  • Insurance organizations
  • Utility companies
  • Schools and alumni organizations
  • Voter registration office
  • Credit card companies
  • Your attorney
  • The passport office

It's a long list, but take it as it comes. Knock out the essentials first, then take a deep breath, step back and chip away at the rest one small step at a time.