What’s in a name? Sometimes, everything.

Mike Van Riper a formal Change of Name proceedingA professional who held himself out as Mike, Myron, our estate planning client, was often given legal documents in connection with his occupation and instructed to sign his “legal name.” Yet the pre-printed name on the document was “Michael,” because his common nickname is “Mike.” After years of explaining and multitudes of wasted paper to account for the error, he decided to make it official.  Joe prepared the family’s estate plan, and Stacey filed a name change application with the court. Upon receiving his Final Judgment of Change of Name, Mike’s daughter was so happy for her dad, who is also a New York Mets fan, that she baked him a cake to say goodbye to “Myron,” for good!

In our practice we find the circumstances requiring a formal Change of Name proceeding are recurring more and more often, most often prompted at an initial consultation when we ask our clients to set forth their “legal name” on their Confidential Estate Planning Questionnaire. With the passage of The Patriot Act and the NJ MVC’s “6 Points of Identification,” individuals are finding it more and more difficult to prove their identity if there has been a break in their history of proper name from birth to the present. A mailman who had one too many families of the same name on a mail route decided to drop the “s” off the last name of one family. When a daughter of that family grew up, married and divorced after the birth of a child, no longer did her birth certificate match any of her vital documents. Her marriage license, motor vehicle license, social security card, and passport all bore different names. The only solution to provide permanency was to file an action and obtain a judgment. There were so many different names on her vitals the judge actually required a court appearance for her to testify that she was not intentionally evading creditors. More often than not, a court appearance is not required. In another instance, a nurse incorrectly completed a birth certificate, but the family utilized the name they gave intended to give their daughter, which differed from mom’s name by one letter. This did not make things any less confusing! At driver license renewal time, she was no longer able to properly prove her identity. In another instance, an immigrant who was not given a middle name by birth but used one she liked throughout her life was not permitted residence at an assisted living without obtaining a New Jersey Identification Card. She could not obtain one because she could not prove the source of the middle name she made up. Stacey has successfully represented her clients in all of the above circumstances, bringing a relief and contentment to the client that they will no longer have to go to the ends of the earth to prove who they are.