Madoffs Seek Name Change: The Rules of Name Changes

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 26, 2010 1:15 PM

Bernie Madoff's daughter-in-law wants out.

Out of the Madoff name, that is. Stephanie Madoff wants her name, and the name of her two children, changed. On Wednesday, the wife of Bernie Madoff's son, Mark Madoff, filed a petition for name change in a New York court.

She is asking that she and her two children change their names from "Madoff" to "Morgan."

In many states, a name change petition is not necessary. Simple usage of a name can be enough for a name to be legally changed. In light of privacy issues and the desire to protect people from becoming identity theft victims, banks and certain agencies are now becoming more stringent on proof of legal name requirements, sometimes insisting that they be provided with legal documents showing the name. 

In many states, name changes that occur by marriage can be satisfied by showing the marriage documents. Still, many organizations now require the showing of official documents with the person's true name, without regard to what the state law says. 

As such, many often opt for the judicial name-change process over the informal one.

Judicial name changes, of course, are subject to the approval of the court. And not all name changes will get court approval. The name cannot have any intent to defraud anyone, such as misappropriating the name of someone else, thus rendering them an identity theft victim. Or it cannot be a racial slur, among certain other restrictions. 

The primary reason behind Stephanie Madoff's name change petition is that she wants to shed the negative affiliation of the Madoff name, a name which brings shame and in some cases, danger. Stephanie claims that she has received death threats as a result of carrying the Madoff name. 

The Madoff name is certainly notorious. Bernard "Bernie" Madoff carried on one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, allegedly swindling investors out of billions. Emotions run high when Madoff's name is mentioned and there has even been a case of suicide linked to Madoff's scheme. 

So is it really a wonder why Stephanie Madoff wants to shed the name? 

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