Archive

Archive for May, 2012

What’s In a Name?

May 17th, 2012 Comments off

When you leave the womb and greet the world your parents give you a name and put it on your birth certificate.  Nobody asks your opinion.  You get no chance to object.  As soon as they’ve determined whether your blanket should be blue or pink, they hang a name on you that you wear for the rest of your life.  So you don’t like the name Mabel?  Ignatz is not your preference?  Suck it up.  You can’t fight it.  Or can you?

You might be surprised to know that it’s relatively easy to change your name.  Article 6 of the Civil Rights Law of the State of New York outlines the procedure to make a change and the applicable rules.

People are most likely to change their surnames, rather than their given names.  But you may change either or both.  The most common scenario occurs when a wife assumes her husband’s surname at the altar.  But did you know that the marriage license application offers other options?  Under the Domestic Relations Law (D.R.L.) §15(b)(1) either or both spouses can change their names when they apply for a marriage license.  The application form prompts you to make the decision.  You can opt to change your name to:

(a)  your spouse’s surname,

(b)  your spouse’s former surname;

(c)  any name “combining into a single surname all or a segment of the premarriage surname or any former surname of each spouse”; or

(iv) a combination name separated by a hyphen, provided that each part of such combination surname is the premarriage surname,  or  any  former  surname, of each of the spouses.

Confused?  Not nearly as much as your wedding guests will be when they receive a thank you card from “Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz-O’Reilly-DiGiorgio-Slovinsky.”

Your surname, doesn’t automatically change when you get married, but if you do elect to change your name on your marriage license, the license will be proof of the change.  The procedure is relatively simple, as long as it’s done coincidentally with applying for a marriage license.

Suppose you’re not getting married, but want to change your name for another reason.  Did your parents give you a first name that makes you the subject of derision?  Maybe your last name is too difficult to spell or embarrassing to say.  Or perhaps your parents just didn’t consider that certain given names shouldn’t be matched with certain surnames.  Consider the case of poor Anita Hoare who lives in Bournemouth, United Kingdom:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/anita-hoare/26/472/2b0

For every Constance Noring, Adam Zapel, Chris Coe or Crystal Ball there is hope.  A petition under Civil Rights Law §60 must be in “writing, signed by the petitioner and verified in a like manner as a pleading in a court of record, and shall specify the grounds of the application, the name, date of birth, place of birth, age and residence of the individual whose name is proposed to be changed and the name which he or she proposes to assume.”

The petition must be approved by a judge who will inquire if you’ve been convicted of a crime or adjudicated a bankrupt or owe back child support.  You are required to disclose any judgments or liens of record or actions or proceedings against you.  If any of these situations apply, you’ll need to explain why the change is justified and is not a surreptitious attempt to avoid your legal obligations.  Similarly, if you have been convicted of a violent felony, your application must be made on notice to the district attorney, division of parole or county probation department.

If you pay your fee, file your petition, get approval from the court and publish the judge’s order in the newspaper that he directs, you may legally change your name.  There’s also a provision in the statute that may exempt a petitioner from publishing the order if the court reasonably believes that his or her safety may be risk.

So there is hope.  If you can’t stand that your name is “Duane Pipe,” you don’t have to take it anymore.  Get up!  Be the Earl E. Bird, and file your petition.  Tell the judge you’ve been to Helen Back.  When you make the change you can celebrate by having a Hy Ball and proclaim “Ida Clair, that I’m not a Lou Zar, anymore!”

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNTS WHEN WE DIE?

May 7th, 2012 Comments off

Recently, an aunt of mine was clearing out some personal items and came across a letter my grandfather had written to his mother-in-law (my great-grandmother) soon after my grandparents’ honeymoon in 1924.  It was a beautiful letter- the kind that people years ago were skilled at writing, a skill not often displayed these days in e-mail, texts and on social media. Lets face it, the art of letter writing has been lost in our digital age.  Traditionally, people have always hung on to such letters or cards for posterity- keepsakes to remember and pass on to a child or grandchild.  Is this also being lost in our digital age?

As recently reported by NPR, consider the plight of a mother in Portland, Oregon, who continued to use her son’s Facebook account to read postings on his wall after his accidental death.  Her son’s wall contained photos and postings from personal friends, many of which she had never seen before. However, when Facebook learned of the son’s death, it changed the password and closed the page.  Thus began a long legal battle by Karen Williams to regain access and obtain years worth of her son’s life on Facebook.

Now, lawmakers in many states are considering legislation that would require social networks like Facebook to grant loved ones access to the accounts of family members who have died.  In Oklahoma, a recent 2010 law grants the administrator of an estate the power to act on behalf of a deceased individual and access social media accounts.  These laws beg larger questions for the individual estate plan.  Whereas in the past, people have always properly considered the disposition of tangible personal property in their Wills, shouldn’t they now also be being given consideration to their “on line” property- the treasure trove of photos, messages and postings that accompanied them through life?

My grandfather died in 1963- 6 years before I was born.  I only know him from family stories… but his letter gave me great insight into his character.  I smile at the notion of how much more my great grandchildren will know of me.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post