Congratulations. You’ve just gotten married. Now the legal stuff begins. You’ve probably decided if you’re going to change your last name or not. If one of you takes your spouse’s last name, then this is the time to make it legal. But if you both already own a home with your separate last names on the mortgage, do you need to change your name on the mortgage? Or if you own the home, marry and take your spouse's name, do you need to change your name on the mortgage?
Changing Name on a Mortgage
You don’t have to change your name on the mortgage, even if you legally change your name. If both your names are already on the mortgage, and one of you takes the other's surname, you don't need to do anything right away. That may change, however, if you decide to refinance your house. Your married name doesn’t need to be on the deed or the mortgage, because your Social Security number will identify you as the correct person on the mortgage. If you do decide to refinance, however, you’ll probably be better off changing your name on the mortgage to match your legal name.
Changing a name on the mortgage means you’ll have to fill out paperwork. You’ll need proof of your marriage and your name change. Some couples are fine with leaving the names on the mortgage as they were before they married; others want the names changed immediately. But if you’re refinancing, it’s something that can be done easily along with the rest of the refinance. If you do decide to refinance, however, make sure both of you have good credit. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to keep the mortgage in one name until the other person improves their credit.
Names on Deed
Your names on the deed don’t have to match the names on the mortgage. If both of your names are on the deed and mortgage before you marry, you don’t have to make any changes. You can change names on house deeds, or not. Your Social Security number will identify you as the proper owner, so you don’t have to change the name on the deed. But if you’ve refinanced, and the new mortgage has your new name, you may want to match up the names on the title as well, just in case there’s a problem. This is a simple paperwork change, sometimes called a quitclaim deed, and will probably cost around $1,000 or so.
If your spouse’s name is on the deed, but not the mortgage, again, that’s not a problem. You both would still own the house. You don’t need to worry about adding your spouse’s name to the mortgage, although both of you do want to make sure the mortgage is paid on time. Some lenders will simply add a spouse’s name to the mortgage for little or no charge, but that’s not often the case. Many lenders will want you to refinance if you add your spouse’s name to the mortgage, so consider whether this is a good time to refinance. It’s probably not worth it if that means paying a higher interest rate. You may want to wait until interest rates drop or you sell the house before making any changes.
If your spouse is not on the deed, your spouse may want to add her name to the deed for protection’s sake. That way, once you change the deed after marriage, if something happens to the marriage, the spouse’s share of home ownership is protected. The home is owned by the persons whose names are on the title, not the person or people on the mortgage.
Change Name on House Title
Adding a spouse to a deed will likely require the quitclaim deed referenced earlier. This will end your right to own the house outright. A new deed will be drawn, with both your names on it as co-owners. Again, this does not change the names on the mortgage. You will probably need an attorney to prepare the deed and the transfer forms. If you should die, and your spouse’s name is not on the mortgage, most mortgages contain an acceleration clause, which would mean that the mortgage would immediately come due. However, banking reform changes in 2010 meant that the surviving spouse could be added to the mortgage, and the bank can’t call the mortgage due.
Can You Refinance?
You may refinance the loan if your name on the mortgage hasn’t yet been changed. If your name is not on the mortgage, however, you can’t refinance. If you as a couple decide to refinance, this is the best time to change your name to your new name or add your name if it’s not on the mortgage. You are still better off refinancing because it has other advantages to you, not just that of changing your name.
The Process of Change
Changing your name can take a bit of time, so don’t expect everything, including your mortgage, to be changed right away. About 80 percent of women change their surname when they marry. Men rarely change their surname, although some adopt hyphenated names. Same-sex couples are much less likely than heterosexual couples to adopt one surname. Courts are friendlier to name changes in the case of marriage or divorce than other situations, where you would likely have to petition the courts. Changing your name after marrying usually only requires the marriage certificate. You can begin using your new name after the ceremony, but changing it on legal documents, including your mortgage or deed if you desire, will take longer. Your first steps should be to change your name on your Social Security and bank accounts before you decide what to do about your mortgage and deed.
It’s not a problem to have two different names on the mortgage, either. The latest Census statistics show that 22 percent of women keep their maiden name. The number of women who keep their maiden names has been slowly increasing since the 1980s, when 14 percent of women changed their names, according to government data. The tradition of women changing their last name when married is rooted in property transfer, so the mortgage and deed name changes have been a relevant concern for a very long time. There was a time in the 1970s when 17 percent of women didn’t change their name, but that trend declined in the 1980s. It began increasing in the 1990s again when 18 percent of women changed their names. Along with the current 22 percent of women who don’t change their names outright, another 10 percent of women hyphenate their last names with their spouse’s or continue to use their maiden name professionally.
Your Credit Worthiness
Having a new name will allow you to change your mortgage and deed, but it will not change your credit rating. You and your spouse will each have individual credit ratings, which will both be considered if you refinance your mortgage. Your credit rating doesn’t automatically get better if your credit rating is average and your spouse's credit is good. However, if your spouse has a better credit rating, and you hold the mortgage, you may be able to refinance and get a lower interest rate. That will allow you to change your name on the mortgage, and, at the same time, get that lower interest rate.
- Montgomery County, Pa.: How Do I Change/Add/Remove a Name on a Deed?
- Paired Life: Changing Your Name After Marriage: The Complete Guide
- Zillow Porchlight: Who Owns the Home When Two Names are on the Mortgage?
- Homeownering: What if Only Your Spouse is on the Mortgage or Title?
- The New York Times: Maiden Names, on the Rise Again
- Market Watch: Why So Many Women Take Their Husband's Last Name
- Vogue: In a Same Sex Marriage, Who Gets to Keep Their Name?
Karen Gardner is a former feature editor and writer and is now a freelance writer. She looks forward to doing her family's taxes each year, and likes to write about home finances and money subjects for the rest of us.