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Deed Poll Help Guide

So often, people live with names they either do not want to be associated with any more due to a marital or partnership break down, or simply because they do not like the name they were given at birth. As long as the motive for changing a name is not because it is intending to defraud a person or an organisation, anyone is welcome to go through this quite painless process. Changing a name by deed poll is one of a number of ways that a name can be changed. The other popular method is through the use of a statutory declaration. This article deals exclusively with changing a name through deed poll, which is considered to be the easiest way to change a name. Before you start changing your name by deed poll, you should check to make sure you are eligible to do so first.

Rules for Changing a Name by Deed Poll

If you are from almost anywhere in the United Kingdom, you are allowed to change a first or last name, or both, through a deed poll. Once you have the deed poll document, you will need to sign it in the presence of a witness who will sign it too.

For British nationals who reside in the UK, the Bailiwick of Guernsey or the Isle of Man, the witness needs to be somebody who:

  • is over 18 years old and lives in the UK;
  • will know who you are;
  • is not a partner, relative or somebody you share your home with;
  • has adequate mental capacity to understand and witness your deed poll document; and
  • is able to be physically present to observe the signing of the deed poll.

Your witness could be a friend, colleague or neighbour.

Anyone from an overseas country can change a name by deed poll if their country of nationality accepts this method for changing a name and they are able to use it for changing their name in any official documents, including a passport. If they are not permitted to do this, then the deed poll is not considered applicable for them to use.

Check Your Profession’s Regulatory Body First

Some professions are a bit more conservative about their members changing their names by deed poll or other means. This is because your name is important to your ties to the profession. The professional organisation that oversees your profession needs to keep a traceable identity of you while you are practicing as a professional. If you are really determined to change your name, you must get permission from the professional body that you are a member of first. This will give your professional body the peace of mind that you are not trying to make yourself untraceable if you are at any time called to account for something you may have done which is not acceptable in your profession.

Changing a Child’s Name Is Possible

In order to change the name of a child who has not yet reached 16 years old, there must be an agreement reached by the people who have parental responsibility for the child. No permission from anyone is required if the child is over 16 years old and wishes to change his or her name by deed poll. The application for the deed poll will need to come from the child.

Restrictions and Choosing a Name

Before you go ahead with the deed poll, there are some names that are simply not allowed, such as the following:

  • A name that does not possess at least one forename and one surname
  • A name that cannot be pronounced
  • A name that has symbols and/or numbers in it
  • A name that has punctuation marks that are totally unknown (but you can use a hyphen if your name change will be double barrelled, and an apostrophe may be used in a surname name such as O’Dell)
  • A name that is offensive, vulgar or blasphemous
  • A name that gives the impression it is promoting some type of criminal activity
  • A name that is intended to promote religious or racial hatred
  • A name that is slang for an illegal drug or promotes the use of an illegal drug in any way
  • A name that mocks or makes fun of people, groups, organisations, government departments or companies

Types of Characters and Restrictions for a New Name

If your name is more than 150 characters, you should think twice before completing your deed poll documents. Also, keep to Latin characters, as these are the only characters accepted through the deed poll service.

Title Restrictions

The British social titles that are recognised as perfectly valid are Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms and Mx. When you are changing your name by deed poll, you are not bound by any restrictions as long as you are using accepted British titles. If you are transgender and want to change your title from Mr to Miss or Miss to Mr, for example, that can be done without any restrictions.

Think First before Adding a Nobility Title

You cannot just give yourself a title that you have either not earned or been awarded or are not eligible to use. If you want to change your title to one that shows your nobility or honour, such as to Lady, Lord or Sir, then this new title must have been given to you by the Sovereign, which at the moment is the Queen of the United Kingdom. In order to add this title, you must be eligible to do so.

You will need proof if you have a title that infers a status, such as the following titles:

  • Lord or Sir
  • Lady or Laird
  • Princess, Prince or Viscount
  • Baron or Baroness
  • Captain or General
  • Doctor or Professor

Note: If you have upgraded your qualifications and now have a PhD and wish to include this on your deed poll, you will need to make the PhD certificate available before this can be completed. Your academic award needs to have been awarded by a British academic body or institution which has been approved by either an Act of Parliament, Royal Charter or the Privy Council.

Using Funny Names

Sometimes, people on the spur of the moment just want to change their name. Think first before doing this as some names might simply not be appropriate for your profession, such as calling yourself Mickey Mouse when you are a consultant psychiatrist! There is no trademark or copyright protection of anyone’s name, so if you really want to change your name to Mercedes Benz or Ed Sheeran, you can. However, you are not permitted to use this new name as a way of deceiving others. For example, if you change your name to Ed Sheeran, you are not permitted to publish any songs using that name. You would most likely be taken to court for trademark infringement by Ed Sheeran’s solicitor or agent for pretending to be him in his capacity as a singer.

Using Trademarked Names and HM Passport Office

HM Passport Office does have a name change policy in force and it appears that they will not issue a passport in a temporary name or one that contains the following:

  • A political statement
  • A group of words that is not usually classified as a name
  • A trademarked name

It Is Optional to Enrol a Deed Poll

As soon as you have changed your name by deed poll, you are not legally required to go through the process of enrolling it. Anyone who is born in England or Wales can enrol their deed poll, but this procedure is not compulsory; your willingness and interest to change your name is all that is required as proof. A deed poll is simply a document that provides evidence that you have changed your name.

However, if you wish, and are over 18 years old, you can place your new name on public record by ‘enrolling’ it via the Royal Courts of Justice. This will make your name change public; however, it is not really of any great benefit to do this, and this process does attract a fee. It only stays at the Royal Courts of Justice for five years and then it ends up at the National Archives at Kew, Richmond. Overall, very few deed polls are enrolled, with 99.5% of people changing their name using a deed poll that is not enrolled.

Use Your New Name Immediately

Once you have completed the deed poll process and your deed poll has been witnessed, you can begin to use your new name immediately. In fact, you should stop using the old name and exclusively use the new name as the deed poll is the evidence to show that you have given up your old name and replaced it with a new one.

Let Others Know about Your Name Change

Once you have completed the formalities for changing your name by deed poll, it is in your immediate interest to inform anyone you may have dealings with, such as the Passport Office, HM Revenue and Customs, DVL, your bank and any other financial institutions, such as building societies, that you have accounts with. It is also important to update any of the following organisations, depending on which is/are relevant to you (you may be asked to show your deed poll as proof of your name change):

  • Your present employer
  • Your school, university or college, if applicable
  • Your doctor and dentist
  • Any business that provides you with utilities
  • Your mobile phone provider

Most formal bodies will usually only accept a deed poll as proof of your name change. From your point of view, it is the most cost effective and least complicated way of changing your name.

In summary, you are permitted to change any forenames, your surname or both. You can add names, remove names or get your current names rearranged into a different order. There is no age restriction, except the one already mentioned.