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Deed Poll vs. Statutory Declaration: Benefits of a Deed Poll

Changing your name, for personal reasons or otherwise, can be done quite simply, as long as you are not out to defraud or deceive another person. You generally do not need to follow any legal procedure to undertake the change. All you need to do is to begin using your new name whenever you like.

A Name Change Begins Immediately

As soon as you have made the decision to go ahead with changing your name, you are permitted to use your new name in all situations, such as the publishing of marriage banns, obtaining or altering the names on your passport or driving licence and for any legal proceedings.

Proof of a Name Change Is Sometimes Required

Even though there are no legal requirements when changing a name, some people or organisations may require evidence that the name change has taken place.

Your birth certificate would not be sufficient evidence for proving your identity if your name is not the same as the name on your birth certificate. When applying for a passport, for example, additional evidence showing your name change will be required.

There Are Many Ways to Prove a Name Change

There are several ways to provide evidence for name changes, including a signed letter from a respected person and publicly announcing your name change, which does not incur any significant expense.

A letter provided by a respected person, like a GP, minister, solicitor or MP, is usually sufficient evidence that you have undertaken a change of name. The letter must state that the person has known you in both the two names and that the change of name is going to be used under all circumstances. However, if you are filing an application for a British passport, a letter is unlikely to be accepted as evidence.

You may also publicly announce your name change by putting an advert in a national or local newspaper. This advertisement may be used to prove you have gone through a name change. The wording in the advert should make it clear that you are no longer using your old name and that you have a new name.

There are two other, more formal ways of providing evidence for your name change:

  • A statutory declaration
  • A deed poll

If you get a statutory declaration, it is legal proof that you have undertaken a name change. A statutory declaration must be witnessed by a solicitor (but not the person who prepared your statutory declaration) or a Justice of the Peace (JP) and be signed by you using your new name.

However, there are a few magistrates courts that are not prepared to witness a name change statutory declaration because they think that a deed poll should be used instead. You will need to explain to them that the statutory declaration is just evidence showing that you are using another name and therefore there is no need for you to use a deed poll, which is a more formal method.

There is one main difference between using a statutory declaration or a deed poll, and that is that a statutory declaration tends to be more expensive as solicitors usually levy a fee for its preparation and witnessing it. A small fee may be required by the court if you use a JP to witness your declaration.

What Is a Deed Poll?

To use a more formal method of affirming your change of name, a deed poll is more appropriate. One of the times you may need to provide a deed poll is when you are putting in an application for a passport.

A person under the age of 18 years old may only have his or her name changed by using a deed poll if the parent responsible for the young person goes through with the procedure. If the young person is over 16 years of age, then he or she is required to give consent if a parent wants to have his or her name changed.

If you prepare the deed poll yourself, you should make sure you sign it only when a witness is present. This person has to add his or her name, home address and current occupation. If you wish to have your deed poll enrolled, you will need two witnesses. It is important that the deed poll states that it has been ‘signed as a deed and delivered’.

Enrolling a Deed Poll

The Supreme Court Central Office is the body responsible for the enrolment of a deed poll, and a small cost is levied for the use of the service. This is not essential, but going through the process of enrolling a deed poll ensures that the name change is on public record. The name change is announced in the London Gazette, too.

Deed poll documents do have various uses, but they have always been the generally accepted way of orchestrating a name change. Usually, the legal name given to a deed that has been drawn up to change someone's name is a “Deed of Change of Name”. It is more common, though, to use the term “deed poll”.

Who Can Use a Deed Poll?

British citizens aged 16 years old or older residing in any place in the world, and anyone of any nationality who lives in the United Kingdom, can use a deed poll. Parents need to apply for their children who are under 16 years of age. If you live in the UK and you are a foreign national, you must check with your own country's embassy, high commission or consulate in London to check if a deed poll is acceptable by them if you wish to change the name on your passport. Countries that do have a British-style legal system normally accept a deed poll.

You should be aware that deed polls cannot be used to obtain name changes for marriage, birth, civil partnership, a decree absolute or any educational certificates, as these are considered to be historical records that were issued in the right name at the time.

Who Is Eligible to Apply for a Deed Poll?

There are no limitations on applying for a deed poll if you are British and are living in Britain or overseas.

If you are a foreign national and you reside in the United Kingdom, then, as mentioned before, you should check beforehand with your embassy or high commission to see if a British deed poll is acceptable in your country. If your deed poll is acceptable, some countries do have additional conditions, such as the Pakistan High Commission which requires that deed polls submitted by their nationals are signed by a solicitor.

The Estonian and Danish Embassies require that their nationals have any deed polls legalised. If you are unable to get your passport updated to your new name, you could find that your deed poll may not be acceptable by all government departments in the UK. Additionally, companies and organisations may not accept your deed poll because you have not changed your name to suit "for all purposes".

If your application is for a deed poll for your child and your plan is to apply for your child’s passport with his or her new name, then you must first make contact with your High Commission or Embassy in London to make sure your country's laws that govern parental responsibility agree with the method you are using and consent to the name change for your child.

Laws regarding parental responsibility do vary from one country to another, and deed polls are issued under UK laws. It is useful to check the age that a young person in your country is considered to be a child. For example, to get a U.S. passport for a 17-year-old in a different name, London’s U.S. Embassy sets a requirement to get a child deed poll as the U.S. only recognises a young person as an adult when he or she has reached 18 years of age.

The majority of foreign nationals can change their name on any UK records and documents by using their deed poll, omitting the need to get their passports changed, but this is not always the case.

Be aware that if you do have all of your UK documents and records changed to your new name, you may have problems travelling outside the UK if your passport shows one name and the other documents you have show another name. If you applied for British citizenship, your deed poll is acceptable by the UK Border Agency and your naturalisation certificate and UK passport will be in your new name.

Dual Nationality

If you are British but you inform the HM Passport Office (HMPO) that you have a passport from another country, it will ask you to get the other passport altered to your new name before a new British passport will be issued in your new name.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

If you are a refugee and have been offered asylum, a deed poll showing any name change is accepted by the UK Border Agency.

If you file a British citizenship application following your change of name, your new name will appear on your British passport and on your naturalisation certificate.

Undischarged Bankrupts

If you are classified as an undischarged bankrupt, you can use a deed poll to change your name. But if you are self-employed and change to a new name, you are required to inform anyone you do business with of the name you were using when you became bankrupt.

In short, that means you are disallowed from carrying on in the same trade using a different name and not telling your customers of your previous name. This is not applicable when you have been discharged from being bankrupt. You are required to inform the Official Receiver who is handling the bankruptcy of any name change.

Holders of Criminal Records

Possessing a criminal record does not stop you from changing your name by deed poll. However, if you have an existing or any pending criminal action against you, you are required to notify the police station handling your case of any name change.

Similarly, if you are on probation, your probation officer must be informed, and if your name is on the Sex Offenders Register, it is a criminal offence not to tell the police within three days from when you start using your new name.

Fancy Names Affirmed by Deed Poll

According to oddee.com, Rebel Wolf is a name that the artist known as Tracie Koziura changed to, because she has a love of wolves. It appears that her Leicester home is covered with wolf pictures. She recalls that, as a teenager, she was not only a rebel but had a fascination for wolves.

A man who was originally called John Rothwell now calls himself King Arthur Uther Pendragon, which seems to be a bit of a challenge for passport checkers at airports! He says that he is the only one in Britain apart from the Queen who is permitted in his passport picture to wear a crown.

His claim is that he wears a crown for religious reasons, which is now accepted by officialdom. Bachelor Arthur, aged 53 from Wiltshire, believes that he is a reincarnation of King Arthur.