Article reference: UK-IA-CHN02

Change your name by deed poll

Introduction

Under UK law a person is entitled to change all or any part of his or her name without the permission of any authority and without any formality. For example, you can change your forenames, surname (or both), add names, remove names, change the spelling of your names or rearrange your existing names. You can just do it.

However, problems will arise when you need to prove to some person or authority that you have a new name. This problem is overcome by writing a declaration as a legal document. This is called a 'deed poll. A certified copy of that document can then be used as proof of the change. It is acceptable to most, but not all, organisations.

What is a deed poll?

A deed poll for a change of name contains three declarations. By executing the deed poll (signing, dating and having your signing witnessed) you are committing yourself to:

  • Abandoning the use of your former name;
  • Using only your new name at all times;
  • Requiring all persons to address you by your new name only.

Note that you cannot change formal legal records like certificates for your children’s birth, or your marriage, civil partnership, decree absolute or education. These are historical records, which were issued in the correct name.

Why change your name?

The most common circumstances are:

  • upon matrimonial separation, when a woman wishes to be known by her maiden name instead of her (former) husband’s name;
  • some other reason connected with marriage, divorce or separation;
  • change of child’s name by an unmarried mother whose child was registered with the father's surname;
  • a person actually changed his name some years ago and now wishes to formalise the change;
  • a transsexual  wishes to change her name after a gender change operation;
  • an entertainer who wishes to use his stage name;
  • someone simply does not like his name.

So long as you are not changing your name for fraudulent purposes, it doesn't matter what the reason is.

Who can make a deed poll?

In the UK, A deed poll can be made by any UK citizen over the age of 16. To change the name of someone below the age of 16 the deed poll must be executed by a person or persons with parental responsibility for the minor and all those with parental responsibility for the minor must consent to the change of name.

Restrictions on names

Whether or not you are changing your name, you should not use names which:

  • are impossible to pronounce;
  • include a number or symbol;
  • Include punctuation marks (although you can have a hyphen to link forenames or surnames and an apostrophe in the case of surnames like O'Brien);
  • are considered vulgar, offensive or blasphemous;
  • may result in others believing you have a conferred or inherited honour, title or rank, for example, a change of first name to Sir, Lord, Laird, Lady, Prince, Princess, Baron, Baroness, Count, Countess, General, Colonel;
  • do not include at least one forename and one surname.

Title restrictions

If you are changing your name, you can also include on your deed poll a change of title, for example Mrs to Miss. If you require a title other than Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, you may need to send documentary evidence of your entitlement to use your desired title to the places you wish you new name to be notified.

Registering a deed poll

To complete the process absolutely, an “optional extra” is to enrol (register) your deed poll in the Central Office of the Supreme Court. To complete this process, details must also be published in the London Gazette - the official daily record of important legal events. However, it is not necessary to enrol a deed poll. Because enrolling adds to the cost, few people go to the extent of enrollment.

Who to advise after changing your name

After changing your name by deed poll, you must notify everyone that has your personal records to let them know you have changed your name. Government departments and agencies such as the Passport Office and the DVLA will require sight of your original deed poll document (or legal copy) as will your bank, building society and credit card companies. Most other companies and organisations will accept a photocopy. If you have changed the name of your child, you will also be required to provide the letter of consent, which we return when we send you your deed poll documentation.

In the Net Lawman pack Change Name by Deed Poll, we provide a list of institutions to which you should consider sending a copy of your change of name deed.

Please note that the information provided on this page:

  • Does not provide a complete or authoritative statement of the law;
  • Does not constitute legal advice by Net Lawman;
  • Does not create a contractual relationship;
  • Does not form part of any other advice, whether paid or free.
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