I am surprised by the number of people confused about name change rules in Minnesota.  You’ve seen the Princess Consuela Bananahammock episode from Friends, right? The simple rule:  you get a freebie when you get married and a freebie when you get divorced. It doesn’t matter if you are the husband or the wife.

At all other times you pay a court filing fee and must have a hearing with at least two witnesses.  At the hearing the witnesses will have to testify to your legal identity and state they do not have any knowledge of you attempting to change your name for any unlawful purposes, to purpetuate a fraud or to  escape any debts. You will have to testify to the same.  There are a few more details to the rule which are set forth fairly clearly on the Minnesota Courts website along with a set of forms which can all be found here.

So, why does this matter?  It probably doesn’t for most people.  But, for the Pheobe Buffay’s of the world, the best lesson is to be strategic.  If you plan to change your name, if you can, take advantage of the opportunity to do so when you have the freebie.  For example, my friend’s long term boyfriend wanted to change his last name because he was estranged from the side of his family he shared his name with.

I took the leap of faith (and hopefully didn’t step on boyfriend’s toes) by informing the couple that he would get a freebie name change if when they got married.  She doesn’t have a ring on her finger (YET!), but they are well on thier way.  With my advice, it sounds like he is going to wait on the name change and put the over $300 filing fee for the name change process towards a ring that was already in the works.  When he finally “puts the ring on it”, the couple will simply change his name (and hers) at the same time they get their marriage license.

I further indicated to my friends that if he wanted to “change” his name on the wedding invitation and materials prior to his name officially being changed by the system, no harm no foul.  I just cautioned him from using the soon to be new name in any fashion that could be misleading to creditors or other persons who have an interest in his “legal” identity.