What We Know

Hollywood Headliners: What’s in a Name?

June 2, 2016 | by Cara Williams

What do Katy Perry, John Legend, Miley Cyrus, Faith Hill, Elton John, and Bruno Mars have in common? They all use a different name than the one they were given at birth! From Peter Gene Hernandez to Bruno Mars, John Roger Stevens to John Legend, and Reginald Kenneth Dwight to Elton John, it is commonplace for celebrities to change their name to something more “marketable.” If you’ve contemplated a name change but didn’t know where to start, here’s what you need to know:

Each state has its own procedures for legally change one’s name, so make sure you check the rules in your specific state. In North Carolina, there are several easy steps one must follow, which can be found in N.C.G.S. § 101-3 and § 101-5. One of the first steps in the process is giving the court a ten-day notice of your intention to change your name. After the ten day period has passed, you must then file an application for a legal name change in the county where you live. The application must contain several key items including your true name, the county where you were born, your date of birth, your parents’ full names, the name you want to assume as your legal name, your reasons for changing your name, and your proof of good character.

In addition, you must also include a criminal history record check. You’ll need a sworn statement where you confirm you live in the county in which you are filing to change your name, as well as a sworn statement saying you do not have any outstanding tax or child support obligations. Be sure you examine the requirements specific to your county, for each county’s requirements may differ. Wake County, North Carolina, for example, requires you to be fingerprinted along with obtaining a national criminal history record check. Finally, you must include any previous name changes you have had. It’s important to know you can only change your name once, with very few exceptions, therefore, choose a name that you can live with long-term.

Even minors can legally change their name. While minors generally need consent from both of parents, for minors age sixteen or older, consent from one parent may suffice if the minor has satisfied one of the conditions in N.C.G.S. § 101-2(d). Wake County, for example, waives the affidavit of character for children under sixteen, so make sure to check your county’s specific requirements for changing a minor’s name. Also, if you have been married and want to change your current last name back to your maiden name, you do not have to follow these steps. Check N.C.G.S. § 101-8 and N.C.G.S. § 50-12 for your name change requirements. Finally, the steps listed above do not apply to adoption proceedings.

While not everyone can be on television or perform at sold out concerts, if you don’t like your birth name, you can legally change it — just not to a name already taken by celebrity. In other words –  no “Lady Gaga”.

Cara Williams is an associate attorney at Smith Debnam, concentrating her practice in creditors’ rights litigation and foreclosure, estate planning, and probate litigation. She represents lenders, acting as substitute trustee on behalf of secured parties in foreclosure and providing professional counsel on loan transactions and lien issues. Cara authors a blog titled: North Carolina Estate Litigation and Elder Law - where she covers important issues with respect to estate planning and elder law. Prior to joining Smith Debnam, Cara was the Assistant Clerk Attorney for the Wake County Clerk of Court where she was the hearing officer for foreclosures, guardianships, estates, and various civil matters....LEARN MORE

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