Legal Question in Constitutional Law in Washington

I wish to do a name change. I am the first son of the first son of the first son, and so on back to the Middle Ages. This is a hereditary family name and I see by all the records I am entitled to use it and pass it on to my heirs. However, I have heard when the word “von” is included it indicates accepting some kind of noble title from a foreign power and petitions including this word are denied in the US even though the originating nation no longer has a monarchy. The word “Count” is also part of the name and all would be included after my current surname; not dispersed throughout the forename and surname. Would my request be denied?

Asked on 8/11/13, 4:03 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Edward Hoffman Law Offices of Edward A. Hoffman

You've been misinformed. As far as the law is concerned, names which start with "von" are no different from any other names. People with such names have the same legal rights as everybody else, and they don't have to modify or misstate their names in order to exercise those rights.

"Count" is usually a title rather than part of a name. Whether you actually hold that title is not a question of American law. Instead, it relates to the laws of the country where the title originated. Even if you really are a count, your title would not grant you any privileges under American law. It also would not limit any of your rights.

I don't see why a court would say no if you want to legally change your name to include the word "Count". My answer is the same whether you actually are a count or not. The name change would not make you a count, but it would make that word part of your name.

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Answered on 8/12/13, 11:34 am

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