CAN I LEGALLY CHANGE MY NAME? (WHAT ABOUT MY LAST NAME?)

You want to change your name—your first name, last name, middle name, or any combination of the three—the answer is, “usually yes.” Except for changes that are intended to hide a person from valid claims or by those having committed a felony, a person is generally allowed to change their name. It’s a fairly straightforward process. All the person needs to do is to file a verified petition with the District Court stating their present name, the name by which they want to be known, the reason for the change, and that they are not a prior felon. Pretty much any reason will do, so long as it’s not to avoid legal liability.

NRS 41.270–290 controls the process. The petitioner must file the petition in Family Court with the appropriate filing fee (currently $270), then publish (at additional cost) a notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county once a week for 3 successive weeks, then the court will hold a hearing. If the reason is shown to be for the safety of the petitioner, the court is able to dispense with the publication requirement and seal the record so that only those with good cause can get access to the information. At the hearing, the judge will inquire as to the circumstances of the change to make sure he or she is satisfied that the purpose is not inappropriate, and if not, then grant the change. (See this article for an example where some courts have been split as to the appropriateness of a name change.)

Anyone who follows music or sports will understand that a person does not need to have a customary name (e.g. Joseph Smith) but can take on an unusual name, such as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” or “Meta World Peace.” Or it can even be a made-up symbol, though that presents obvious practical problems.

In 1993, musician Prince Rogers Nelson became known as “Prince” as his popularity increased. After changing his name to, he was referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” because there was no pronunciation for the symbol.[1]

Chicago-born Laurence Tureaud legally changed his name to “Mr. T” in 1982. He explained, “When I was old enough to change my name, I changed it to Mr. T so that the first word out of someone’s mouth was ‘Mister,’ a sign of respect.”[2]

Similarly, in September 2011, basketball star Ron Artest, known for his hot temper and inconsistent skills as a professional basketball player, changed his name to Meta World Peace. His reason for doing so was reportedly “to inspire and bring youth together all around the world.” His publicist, Courtney Barnes, is reported to have said that World Peace chose Metta as his first name because it is a traditional Buddhist word that means loving kindness and friendliness towards all.[3] I’m sure it had nothing to do with the series of altercations on and off the court in which he was involved in the prior seasons.

Nor does a person have to keep the name they changed it to. Indeed, Ron, or Meta, wasn’t happy with Word Peace after a while. Instead, he recently decided the more important goal was not World Peace, but “The Panda’s Friend.”[4] (Basketball fans will probably remember Ron, or now “The” has been playing for the Sichuan Blue Whales of the Chinese Basketball Association.) After he changed it to World Peace, he was reported to say that his daughter, Diamond, then wanted to be World Peace. One can wonder if she’ll now be Diamond Zara Panda’s (best) Friend.

In any event, you can, indeed, change your name if you have a lawful reason and the time and money to do it.

 




[1] For the record, some reports suggest that this was not a formal name change, but merely a change to his “stage name” used in marketing, booking, and ticketing for his shows. But since it’s possible, and because it makes for a good story, I’m including it here. See Carter, Andrew (June 23, 1999). “The People Formerly Known as Fans”. City Pages; “Prince: The Artist BIO, Biography,” at Angelfire.com.

[2] See Yahoo TV, available at https://tv.yahoo.com/news/five-facts-about-mr–t-on-his-60th-birthday.html

[3] See Yahoo Answers, available at https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111228120040AAs6L1q.

[4] See ESPN Online, available at http://espn.go.com/blog/new-york-knicks/post/_/id/58196/metta-changing-name-to-the-pandas-friend?ex_cid=espnapi_public.