So You need a Name Change in New York.

My elderly client calls me up and says, “I can’t get a copy of my birth certificate, so I can’t get a passport, so I can’t . . . . . ”

“That’s a new one on me,” I say. It turns out that this client had been using “mary smith” for more than 70 years, but that her true name “june mary smith” (names changed to protect the innocent) appeared on her birth certificate. She had no legal papers to show that she had ever used the name “June” anywhere, even her Social Security card contained the name “Mary Smith.” Two marriages later, she wants a passport to visit her daughter, but the New York City Clerk won’t give her a certified copy of her New York State birth certificate because she can’t prove who she really is. Frustrating? Not for this spry client, but a pain in the neck because now she has to Petition the New York State Supreme Court to legally “change her name.”

That makes no sense, but it’s true and it’s happening to many people in this post- 9/11 era. We prepared a Petition for a Name Change under New York’s Civil Rights Law, Sections 60 through 65, and sent her to the court house to “walk it through.”

I hate charging people for these types of matters, but I think my office added “value” to the printed form, gave her a good deal, and will resolve the issue. I had half a mind to sue the Clerk’s office, but what would that gain?

Bottom Line– New York State earned $305, I earned a new client, and we are all protected now that grandma confirmed her original identity. Sometimes, it gets bizarre.

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