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The pros and cons of legally changing your name

You have considered changing your name for a while, and you think it is finally time to take that next step and make it official. Perhaps you have never really liked your given name, and you want something that you love. Perhaps you are looking for a fresh start in your life, and you think the name change is a key step to put you in the right mindset for positive growth.

Regardless of your reasons, you do want to consider the pros and cons before you do it. Here are a few things to think about:

Pro: You have all of the options you could ever want

Generally speaking, you can pick any name you desire. It's all wide open. People often feel like they have to live with a name they never liked, but you don't. Get as creative as you want. Pick something that really fits your personality and your desires in life.

There are some obvious restrictions: You can't pick an obscene name, you can't use something that is trademarked and you can't copy a celebrity's name exactly. You can't change your name in an effort to avoid arrest or commit any type of fraud. Other than that, though, the choice is up to you.

Con: It's not free

This is an official legal step that you must take, and that means you have to pay some fees. For instance, you have to put in a petition to change your name, which must then get approved. It needs to get notarized. If your name change is the result of a divorce or a marriage, you may need additional documentation. It's not prohibitively expensive -- court fees may be a few hundred dollars -- but it does cost money. This is only something you want to do if you're serious about it.

Pro: You can leave behind a trendy name

Parents often pick trendy names when their children are born. This means you get a cascade of people with the same names: Jennifer, Katie, David, John, Brittany. It all depends on when you were born. If you feel sick of having the same name as everyone else and you want something that stands out, changing your name gives you the chance to choose for yourself.

Con: You have to tell everyone about the change

People will ask questions. They will forget that you changed your name. It may take more work than you think to contact friends, family members, co-workers, supervisors, school administrators and everyone else who needs to know. This can get a bit confusing, especially in the first few months after the change.

The legal process

If you do want to change your name, make sure you understand the legal process and what steps you'll need to take. It is very important to do this properly so that you don't overlook anything.

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