Article reference: UK-IA-CHN13

Changing your name: what is a deed poll?

Why use a deed and what the term "deed poll" means

A deed poll is a legal document. While most legal contracts bind two parties to following a course of action, a deed poll is an expression of intention of a single party rather than a promise.

Deeds are used when there is, in legal terms, no consideration. In other words, when there is no exchange of value in return for the contract. You can read more about deeds here.

The word poll (commonly mis-spelt "pol" or "pole") is an archaic legal term that refers to documents printed or written on paper with straight edges. In the context of deeds poll (the plural of a deed poll), the poll has no real significance to the effect of the document.

Nowadays, the most common use for a deed poll is to change a person's name. The document that does so is a "deed of change of name", but the name of the document used to do so, a deed poll, has stuck in peoples' minds.

Common misconceptions about authenticity and legality

There is no requirement to use a wax seal to create a deed anymore. A wax seal makes a document look official, but has no effect on the legitimacy of the document. Nor does a seal create authenticity. A deed poll is not a certificate and the authenticity is created by the signatures of the person creating the document and the witnesses.

The words "signed, sealed and delivered" have been replaced with the simpler words "executed as a deed". There is no need to "deliver" the document to anyone. Once created, the document is binding. Other parties (such as government departments) may need proof that the deed exists in order to carry out some task (such as issuing a new passport), but they do not need to be sent a copy simply because the document has been created.

Nor does the paper quality matter. A thick, yellow paper may look more official than ordinary copier paper, but the importance is in the words of the deed, not the presentation.

What is a deed poll for a change of name?

A deed poll for a change of name contains a number of declarations. When you create a deed poll, you declare:

  1. your identity

  2. that you renounce, relinquish and abandon use of your former name

  3. that you take on a new name and will use in every transaction, dealing or contract

  4. that you are a British citizen, or a Commonwealth citizen

  5. that you request and require other people to use your new name

Recognition of change of name

Any deed poll for a change of name that has been executed correctly will be recognised by all government departments, embassies, High Commissions and companies, whether in the UK or abroad. As mentioned before, your document does not have to have a wax seal or be printed on special paper to be legal and valid.

Keeping your deed of change of name safe

You'll need to keep your document safe so that you can use it in the future. You could use an archive service, but we recommend keeping it with your birth certificate. Ideally, all personal documents should be kept in a fireproof safe, but in reality, most of us don't have one of these. If you don't, but you want to protect your document in case of fire or theft, you can keep a copy with a family member (make sure you have it certified as a true copy by a witness such as a friend). A certified copy is as legally effective as the original.

Further information and useful documents

You may be interested in our free deed of change of name that allows you to change your name without involving any third party solicitors or companies.

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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