, Derry, New Hampshire

December 7, 2011

Changing an adult's name is relatively easy

About the Law
Andrew Myers

I want to change my name. My last name is ridiculous and I can't believe my family, which I don't want anything to do with anyhow, hasn't changed it before. How do I do this?

You file a petition in the New Hampshire Circuit Court Probate Division and pay a $90 filing fee. You must send a copy of your driver's license, birth certificate or passport.

If, for some reason, you have an out-of-state license, you will need to file proof of residence. At some point, you will be required to attend a hearing and explain to the court the reason for the change.

Essentially, the court needs to know that the reason for the change is legitimate and not fraudulent. All of this assumes an adult name change. For a minor, a certified copy of the birth certificate is required and both birth parents receive a notice of the hearing by mail.

Massachusetts Probate Court has a similar procedure, but the filing fee is $150, plus a $15 surcharge.

What can I do if the other party involved in an auto accident is broke? A 22-year-old, uninsured, hit our car and was at fault. They're ignoring our written demand to pay for repairs to the car. Apparently, the person is a college student working part time and has student loans.

You could take the other party to court. The small claims court recovery ceiling is $7,500 in New Hampshire, and $7,000 in Massachusetts.

If the damages are more, you need to file in District Court and comply with the less simple rules. If all goes well, you will get a judgment for the full amount.

However, if the other party is truly broke, you can spend a lifetime chasing them around with your judgment in supplementary process or a motion for periodic payments. With any luck, you might get an order for them to pay you $50 a month and, if you are even luckier, they will pay that.

Every car is a rolling risk and should be insured. People tell me their car was not worth insuring. However, in the above scenario, if you had collision coverage, that would pay for damage to the car. If you had medical payments, that would pay your medical bills up to the limit you select, and if you had "uninsured" coverage, you could claim additional bodily injury damages.

I saw a study once that approximately 40 percent of cars in urban Massachusetts centers are not insured; this in a state where auto insurance is "mandatory." So, in New Hampshire, where insurance is not required, imagine how many cars are uninsured.

Don't count on the person who runs a stop sign and hits you to have had a temporary moment of sanity prior to the accident and to have retained insurance.

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Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry and North Andover. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. Send questions to