Legal Items to Do After Getting Married

by Stacy Zeiger, Demand Media
    A marriage certificate proves you are legally married.

    A marriage certificate proves you are legally married.

    After months of preparation, the big day finally arrives. As soon as you say "I do," you're married in the eyes of all of your friends and family. Even though the ceremony is over, you must still take care of a few legal items after your big day to prove to banks, employers and other financial and legal institutions that you really tied the knot.

    Marriage License/Certificate

    To most financial companies and government agencies, your marriage is not official until you present a certified copy of your marriage license or a marriage certificate. After you are married and have signed your marriage license, the officiant of the wedding mails the license to the appropriate county office and it takes a week or two for it to be processed. You must then fill out a form and pay a small fee to request copies of the official document. Whether applying by mail, fax, online or in person, you must provide appropriate identification, typically a driver's license or passport.

    Name Change

    If you decide to change your name after you get married, your first steps will be to apply for a new Social Security card and obtain a new driver's license. You must change your name on your passport and any other forms of identification that you carry. After you have identification with your new name, you can begin changing your name on all financial accounts, including credit cards and insurance policies. Make a decision about whether to change your name before you get married. Some states, such as New York, require you to choose your surname as part of the licensing process and will require you to go through the licensing process again if you later decide to change your name.

    Health Insurance

    After marriage, you may have the option to join your spouse's insurance plan. Many insurance plans set a time limit for enrolling a spouse after marriage, usually 30 days. Once that time is up, you must wait until the next open enrollment period to enroll in the insurance plan. If both you and your spouse have health insurance plans through work, determine whether you will save money by joining your spouse's plan or keeping separate insurance plans.

    Life Insurance and Retirement

    If you have life insurance or retirement accounts, update the information to make your spouse the beneficiary. Many life insurance policies allow you to specify more than one beneficiary and the percentage each beneficiary will receive. If you help support other family members or a family member has cosigned on a loan, you may want to designate a portion of your life insurance to cover those costs. If your spouse relies on your income or the two of you have a mortgage or other loans, you should take out additional life insurance to help your spouse adjust in the event of your death.

    Bank Accounts and Credit Cards

    When you get married, even if you do not want to combine finances, you might want to open a joint bank account to cover household expenses. In addition to the joint checking account, contact your bank and credit card lenders to add your spouse as someone authorized to discuss your accounts. Unless you authorize your bank and credit card lenders to talk to your spouse, they cannot provide your spouse with any information about your account, even in the event of an emergency.

    About the Author

    Stacy Zeiger began writing in 2000 for "Suburban News Publication" in Ohio and has expanded to teaching writing as an eighth grade English teacher. Zeiger completed creative writing course work at Miami University and holds a B.A. in English and a M.Ed. in secondary education from Ohio State.

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