It’s been almost nine years since I jettisoned my maiden name, Elphinstone, and became a Herron. Aside from causing a feeling of loss – I even got my old initials which I once shared with my dad tattooed on my wrist afterwards – my former Tolkien-like name also keeps haunting me and my personal finances.
If you just got married this spring and took your spouse's name, hyphenated your names or created a new one, you may find similar frustrations.
When I first went through the newlywed ritual of changing my name, the process – while time-consuming – was relatively painless. I filed paperwork with the Social Security office and DMV and called my bank, credit card companies and insurance providers, many of which required a copy of my marriage certificate.
Then I hit unexpected bumps.
A few months after changing my name, I found out I needed to correct the name on my airlines miles account connected to my rewards card. A few years after that, PayPal needed documentation to change the name on my account there. Both instances only required sending a copy of my marriage certificate.
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And every few months, I carry my passport – which shows Elphinstone as my now adopted middle name – to my bank to cash in 30-year-old savings bonds that – as you guessed it – were issued to grade-school Janna Elphinstone and not the happily married Janna Herron.
Late last year, I hit my biggest name obstacle. I wanted to transfer the funds in a traditional IRA that my dad opened for me many years ago to one at a different institution.
It would take more than a copy of my marriage certificate and nearly all my wits to pull that off.
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Is my ex-husband the beneficiary?
First, I needed the account number and account balance of the existing IRA. This is usually easy – a simple login online – but I got locked out of my account after forgetting my login and password. I called customer service and had to answer a series of questions to verify that I was really the former Janna Elphinstone trying to log in.
It went like this:
What’s the approximate account balance? I don’t know. That’s why I’m trying to sign on.
When was the account opened? A really, long time ago.
Who is the beneficiary of this account? My husband? Nope. My father? Nope. Don’t tell me it’s my ex-husband? Thankfully, no. (I still don’t know who it was.)
Somehow, I eventually answered enough questions correctly to sign on, get the needed info and call the other financial institution to initiate the transfer.
And then this:
Is the account in the same name as your account here? Um, no.
Then there’s some additional paperwork. Crap.
A notary would not do
I needed something called a medallion signature guarantee. A notary would not do. I called my bank and found out that there was only one person in all of the New York City branches with this mysterious designation. He did not take appointments. I had to catch him while he was there.
The first time I planned to go, he wasn’t there. Thankfully I called ahead. The second time, I got there just as he started a conference call. I couldn’t stay and wait. Finally, I got him on my third try.
You’re a hard person to get a hold of, I told him as I sat down.
Every branch thinks I’m the only medallion signature in New York City.
It turns out almost every branch has a person with a medallion signature guarantee, including the one conveniently located in my office building. Well, then.
He asked if the account had more than $1 million in it. Ha, I wish. If it had, he’d have to use a different colored stamp. He also told me that a medallion signature guarantee means the bank not only verifies me as me, but also takes on the liability if my documents turn out to be forged.
Taking his responsibility lightly
He took this responsibility somewhat lightly. He didn’t look at my current passport, my expired one or my marriage certificate I brought along to prove that I was, at one time, Janna Elphinstone. He trusted me as a long-time customer, stamped and signed.
The rest of the process went smoothly. After I mailed in the documents, both institutions alerted me that the transfer was initiated and, soon after, completed. My husband – also the reason for this Elphinstone/Herron debacle – advised me to make sure the balance for the old IRA was zero.
I logged on, this time with no problems, and there it was: a balance of $13.26 from dividends that hit my account after the transfer.
Good grief, I have to do this again.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Changing your name? Expect years of personal finance frustration